23 Years Ago: Stone Temple Pilots Release ‘Tiny Music … Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop’
After a pair of highly successful albums, Stone Temple Pilots found the road to their third release was a bumpy one. But on March 26, 1996, the band kept their hot streak alive with the release of the Tiny Music … Songs From the Vatican Gift Shopalbum.
Problems within the band had mostly stayed private up to that point, but just as the band was starting to think about new music, frontman Scott Weiland was arrested for possession of heroin and cocaine, leading to a temporary STP hiatus. "We barely got through Purple," Dean DeLeo told Guitar World, revealing that they had to scrap two weeks of sessions as a result.
Unsure of what the future held, the three remaining members reached out to Dave Coutts, who they would later record an album with under the moniker Talk Show. "Robert and I had about 30 songs, and we sat in the room one night and basically went down the list and marked next to every song: Scott, Scott, Dave, Scott, Dave, Dave, Scott...." Dean told Guitar World. "It's really weird, because in all reality it was like 'Big Bang Baby' could've been on this Talk Show record and 'Everybody Loves My Car' could've been on Tiny Music."
But eventually, the band regrouped with Weiland and headed to the Westerly Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif. to work out their issues and buckle down on new music. It was just the band, producer Brendan O'Brien, a few crew members, engineers and a chef. Drummer Eric Kretz told Pause and Play, "We could run to any room in the house with a microphone and help out with a song. Brendan loves to try different things. He's really into spontaneity, so there were tons of great guitar leads in all sorts of places, like the bathroom and the entryway. I even set up my drums in a cedar closet upstairs. And I did the drums for 'Big Bang Baby' on the front lawn. A lot of the songs you hear were written right there, in the heat of the moment."
The band rediscovered the joy of recording together. Dean DeLeo told MTV, ""It's just really beautiful when we write a song and we give the song to Scott. What he puts on it is just satisfying and puts it to another level." Meanwhile, Weiland added, "I have to remind myself to be humble in the face of music all the time. That gift could be taken away."
Even with all the upheaval, the union of the foursome kept their string of hit songs alive. It started in March of 1996 with the release of "Big Bang Baby." With a raw bass line from Robert DeLeo that cut right through and an infectious beat from drummer Eric Kretz, the song captured the imaginations of listeners. Add in some serious swagger from Weiland on the verses and some psychedelically melodic moments as well and the song soon found itself on top of the Mainstream Rock Chart.
The band would follow with "Lady Picture Show," a more melodic track rooted in early '70s rock. Bassist Robert DeLeo was credited with the music and his instrument once again cuts through, while brother Dean DeLeo opens the track with a memorable riff as well. As for the lyrics, as usual, those came from Weiland. He stated in his Not Dead and Not for Sale autobiography that the track was penned about the horrific gang rape of a dancer who winds up falling in love but can't let go of the pain." Like "Big Bang Baby" before it, "Lady Picture Show" also shot to the top of the charts.
But the band still had one more hit left on the album -- the aggressive rocker "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart." In June of 1996 the band made it the third single from the album and it too skyrocketed to the top of the charts. Featuring Eric Kretz's nimble drumming and Dean DeLeo's chugging guitar riffs, the song connected with fans and has often been used as a concert closer for the band in the years since its release. Weiland once stated in a radio interview that the song came from a bad experience with acid, but in his autobiography, he added that the song was penned about his hunger for redemption. The band earned a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1997 for the song.
Several other tracks registered with fans and the band as well. "Tumble in the Rough" marked the first time that Weiland was credited with both the music and the lyrics on a track during the band's tenure, and the song did make some inroads at rock radio. "Pop's Love Suicide" was a much underrated track on the album and the jangly rocker "Art School Girl" was cited by Weiland as one of his favorite tracks from the disc.
Sadly, Weiland's substance abuse issues would resurface during touring for the album, cutting the band's road plans short in 1996 and 1997. But even with STP not enjoying a full promotional cycle, the Tiny Music disc still went double platinum in sales. And the songs have stood the test of time, with Weiland, Chester Bennington and now Jeff Gutt delivering them live.
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