Stone Temple Pilots: "We wanted to make an indelible mark on the face of music"
Right from when Stone Temple Pilots began, they were pilloried like no other band before or since. They became one of the great groups of the 90s, but those wounds never fully healed
In an episode of one of the most popular TV shows of the early 90s, there’s an exchange that sums up the prevailing critical view of Stone Temple Pilots when they first came along. In it, those two unlikely arbiters of cool, Beavis and Butt-head stare blank-eyed out of the screen as the video to STP’s hit single Plush plays. “Is this Pearl Jam?” cackles Beavis.
“Yeah, Eddie Vedder dyed his hair red,” snorts Butt-head.
Beavis: “Wait a minute. This isn’t Pearl Jam.”
Butt-head: “They both suck.”
Beavis: “Pearl Jam doesn’t suck. They’re from Seattle.”
In that brief conversation, those animated sofa-dwellers with the single-digit IQs neatly summed up the reception the Los Angeles band had received from sections of the mainstream music press: they were copyists, opportunists, bandwagon jumpers. They had the temerity to sign to a major label without putting in the hours on some godforsaken indie label than no one but the hippest hipster knew about. Jesus, they weren’t even from the right city.
The vitriol heaped upon Stone Temple Pilots was vastly out of proportion to their supposed crimes against cool. The band’s debut album, Core, was simultaneously confident and pained, anthemic and intimate. Sure, it slotted neatly into prevailing trends, and yes, singer Scott Weiland’s chameleonic baritone evoked both Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain. But Stone Temple Pilots were their own men – and men of the people at that, as the eight million people who bought Core can testify.
If there’s a band that Stone Temple Pilots should be compared to, it’s Led Zeppelin. Not musically – the surviving members of STP aren’t foolish enough to draw a parallel there. But certainly both bands were forced to endure an inordinate amount of shit being undeservedly dumped on them early in their careers, and both eventually rose above it with dignity and pride intact.