So this is where it ends.
In a rented tour bus, parked outside of a Country Inn & Suites Hotel in Bloomington, Minn., early in the evening on a chilly Thursday in December.
You’re in your bus because the show you were scheduled to perform at the Medina Entertainment Center, a few hundred seat ballroom given to presenting oldies rock acts and tribute bands, has been canceled. You’ve canceled a lot of shows over the years, with increasing frequency during the last few.
You’re surrounded by your band, the Wildabouts. They make the call when they find you unresponsive. The cops arrive around 8:30 p.m., and pronounce you dead.
They say you died in your sleep. They don’t point out the elephant in the room – your years and years of struggling with addiction to serious narcotics. They do this out of respect for the family you’ve just left behind.
All but immediately, your peers and fans take to social media and express their sorrow, their regret, their love for the unforgettable music you created all the time you were fronting Stone Temple Pilots, most of the time when you were singing for Velvet Revolver, and only some of the time when you’d ventured out on your own.
What none of them express is surprise.
That’s because you’re Scott Weiland, and you’ve been in trouble for a long time. You revealed as much yourself, repeatedly, throughout your autobiography, “Not Dead and Not for Sale,” when you talked about being raped by an older fellow student at 12 years old, and doing heroin for the first time while on tour with Stone Temple Pilots in 1992, and scoring more of the heroin you were by that point addicted to with Courtney Love a few years later, and getting clean, and falling off the wagon, and getting clean again, and then getting yourself kicked out of Velvet Revolver for relapsing yet another time.
All along the way, your friends worried about you, but many of them were going through their own problems with drugs, or had managed to get clean and wanted to stay that way, so you were a risk, someone perhaps easier to care about and worry over from afar.
Your fans, a group I counted myself among, veered between anger at your inability to clean up and your disrespectful routine of showing up late and visibly wasted on stage, and a compassion and empathy that occasionally veered uncomfortably close to pity.
The fans didn’t know you, really, had never walked in your shoes, most likely didn’t know what it was like to be an addict, to deal with whatever those demons were that made you continue reaching for something that would shut them up, temporarily at least. But they knew your music – they had welcomed it into their lives, embraced it, probably fallen into and out of love to it, played it loud to pump themselves up on a Saturday night, and softer to nurse their wounds on a Sunday morning. Maybe they even turned their kids on to it – we’re getting older now, y’ know, and we have to pass the torch.
Because everyone who saw you when you were healthy, when you were on, when you were owning it – they knew it, man. You had a gift, a voice, a way of navigating your way through a minefield of killer riffs and finding the coolest line, the right melody, the thread that connected the music the critics insisted on calling “grunge” to the Bowie-like glam rock you sure seemed to love, in a way that was so exciting and so refreshing and so much more than those absurd critics calling you and your band mates a Pearl Jam knock-off were capable of understanding. You were the real deal.
We saw you at your best, when you and your STP mates shared an August, 2000 bill with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Darien Lake, a venue and a date you probably forgot rather quickly, but to us, that was a night and a performance we’d never forget, because you were on it, man, and you pretty much stole the show out from under the Peppers.
We saw you at your less than best, too, in 2011, at the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls, when you had managed to work your way back into the good graces of your former STP bandmates, and launched a reunion tour, only to show up several hours late for our gig, clearly intoxicated and teetering on the brink of control. That will be the last time we see you with STP in our neck of the woods, it turns out now.
And we saw you at your absolute lowest, when you and the Wildabouts showed up at the Bear’s Den at the Seneca Niagara Casino, and you didn’t seem to want to be there, and after a few songs, neither did we. I was close to the stage that night, and at one point, I think it was during “Big Empty,” I caught your attention for a minute, and when I looked in your eyes, I thought to myself “The light has gone out.”
Like everyone who loved your music, and more importantly, everyone who loved you, the person, not the rock star, I hoped that light would come back.
But now, whenever I listen to my very favorite of the albums you had such a big part in creating – STP’s “Tiny Music …Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” – I’m gonna have to try really hard not to think of you dying at 48, the same age I am, in the back of a tour bus, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, both literally and figuratively, another gig in a venue that you really should not have been playing, canceled.
I think after a while, I’ll be able to block out that image, and to let the music take me somewhere else, some imagined place where generation after generation doesn’t have to watch some of its best and brightest end up addicted to heroin or something like it.
I hope all of that flowery language about what’s supposed to happen when we die is true, and you’ve actually found some peace now. The sort of peace you never found here.