It happens often and it’s never a bad thing. Though many bands invariably channel or attempt to emulate The Beatles, the only group that I’ve heard that has done so more than once successfully, while simultaneously remaining wholly original and steadfast to their sound, is Stone Temple Pilots.
Stone Temple Pilots, prior the recent replacement of lead singer Scott Weiland, is one of my favorite bands. They have an immense range of sounds and songs that, in addition to The Beatles, cull comparisons to bands from The Beach Boys to Led Zeppelin. Any doubt about The Beach Boys listen no further than the atmospheric “Hello, It’s Late” from their Shangra-La Dee Da album that sounds as though it would easily find itself on the soul-searching Pet Sounds. The Zeppelin resemblance is obvious in their rock-oriented tracks with gargantuan riffs such as “Long Way Home,” a song chronicling Weiland’s frequent struggles with his demons of drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications. They’re able to stimulate comparisons to classic artists not only because they are big fans of these idols and want to acknowledge their influence and legacy on themselves and popular music, but because they have a complex understanding of the construction of music. Weiland’s melodies are creative and he leaves himself little room for breathing at times, which I find to be one of the most consistently impressive things about his phrasings in this band, other groups, and his solo work. Since I started playing guitar, I’ve been fascinated by all the songs of STP. They employ unusual chords, many of them based in jazz, and utilize open chord configurations in beautiful ways that make the instrument ring and resonate. I could go on to laud the unique bass lines and powerful drumming that keep everything tied together, but I’ll let the music speak for itself.
The acoustic-based “Pretty Penny” draws similarities to “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”
Sometimes the influences are not hidden too far beneath the surface as the pictures of John Lennon and Paul McCartney on the mantle indicate in a rehearsal of “Pretty Penny.”
On “Lady Picture Show” I think the resemblance starts with the guitar track on the verse being relegated to the right channel in the mix. Not sure why since most of The Beatles recordings were originally mono, but it evokes a retro sound despite being a contemporary technique. Then it’s definitely that bouncing chorus and those drum flourishes that really recall The Beatles, combined with Weiland’s falsettos sounding quite Lennon-esque. It’s a shame this song didn’t get too much attention in their live performances following the 1996-1997 tour.
It seems that when Stone Temple Pilots write songs about the ladies, such as “Sour Girl,” it invariably conjures The Beatles.
Stone Temple Pilots have a knack for producing short, catchy pop songs, following in The Beatles’ footsteps, that is frequently overlooked. With “Days of the Week” clocking in at 2:35 it’s rare to hear such a brief song today that isn’t an abridged or edited version, and even so it probably wouldn’t be cut that concisely.
A bit of a treat here for the casual fan. “Learning to Drive” was an unreleased track from the recording of their 1999 album, No. 4. It would be at home on The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, eliciting the experimental and murky sound of introspective tracks like “Fool on the Hill” and “Blue Jay Way.” This song was eventually officially released in a retitled and lightly modified version as “Beautiful Day,” a Weiland solo track, first on the Bug (USA/Germany, 2006) soundtrack and then again in a slightly different form on his second album, “Happy” in Galoshes.
I would be remiss to neglect the time STP actually covered The Beatles. STP isn’t a band that frequently does many cover songs. As a testament to how great their version sounds, when it plays I honestly can’t discern whether it’s the original track by The Beatles or STP’s version right away. As is probably noticeable on the other tracks, the band uses different combinations of vintage instruments and amps to achieve an anachronistic sound.
Hope you enjoyed listening!