Fortunately, there are second chances in Rock. The first shot at stardom is usually loaded with dreadful missteps. Between bad contracts and double-dealing management, what money a group eventually receives gets wasted on noise, toys, parties, mercenary friends, reckless investments and lawyers for arraignments, property damage and paternity suits. Nobody said the Rock N' Roll lifestyle was cheap. A lot simply disappears, usually in a vein or up the nose. There are countless stories of band members waking up on morning to find that both fame and finances have disappeared.
As Guns N' Roses once again fell into disarray, highlighted by Axl Roses' comic battles with guitarist Buckethead, GN'R alum, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum, along with guitarist Dave Kushner and ex-Stone Temple Pilot vocalist Scott Weiland emerged as Velvet Revolver. However, it wasn't easy.
Some time after leaving GN'R, Slash, McKagan and Sorum played a charity gig. They realized they still had some puissance. Auditions resulted in Kushner's addition. Now it was time to find a vocalist. Weiland, one of the '90s more impressive talents, signed on. Here were the makings of a supergroup - one that would easily erase past financial misfortunes. There was just one problem. Weiland just couldn't stay out of trouble. After leaving STP in '98 and releasing an easily forgotten solo effort, Weiland racked up a series of DUIs and drug arrests that continued through Velvet Revolver's formation. To compound the problem, Weiland was accused of walking away from a court ordered rehab center. He claimed he had permission to leave.
Much of this was still swirling when Velvet Revolver released their debut "Contraband" and embarked on a supporting tour. Weiland's arrest and rehab record was so bad that he had to ask the court's permission to film the "Slither" video and tour.
As work on Velvet Revolver's sophomore effort, "Libertad," wrapped up, McKagan gave his group a little promo. "We may be the first dangerous band that's come along in a long time," declared the bassist. "Our goal is still to go out there and cause as much chaos (as) possible." Well, why not? Any band with Weiland should be able to accomplish that. Or maybe Weiland wasn't the issue.
Prior to the album's release, Slash revealed that he and some of his fellow band members "lapsed back into some old habits" while recording. "The only one who stayed completely sober actually was Scott," claimed Slash. "Dave doesn't count because he has been clean for years." Let's see, that leaves McKagen and Sorum (in addition to Slash).
"Libertad" was issued in two formats. A CD version included a video documentary on the making of the album. Then there was a CD/DVD with a 30-minute documentary of the band's South American tour. The '07 set's first single was, "She Builds Quick Machines." "It's a great f**kin' rock song," said McKagan. "It has a kick-ass guitar riff, a great chorus, a really big bridge and a great Slash solo." There you have it. That McKagan is a one man PR outfit.
In late '07, Velvet Revolver hit a tough patch. Weiland was arrested in November, for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. Police said Weiland failed a sobriety test following a car crash in L.A. and that he posted $40,000 bond following his refusal to give a blood or urine sample. Then, after being denied visas to tour Japan earlier in the year (they were deemed 'undesirables'), Velvet Revolver were forced to postpone their Australian trek due to unspecified band-related health troubles.
Velvet Revolver officially announced that they had parted ways with Weiland on April Fool's Day, '08. Unfortunately, it was no joke. "This band is all about its fans and its music and Weiland isn't 100 percent committed to either," said Slash in a statement. "Among other things, his increasingly erratic onstage behavior and personal problems have forced us to move on."
That last line must have struck a nerve. Just a year earlier Weiland and his wife, Mary, trashed a room at Graciela luxury hotel in Burbank. Later that day, Mary was arrested for torching her husband's wardrobe in front of their Toluca Lake home. No worries, those clothes were out of style anyway. Mary blamed her bipolar disorder for the incidents. "The weekend's difficulties were brought on by a reaction to an imbalance in (my) medications," she explained in a statement. "Reports that we were fighting . . . are untrue. Scott was simply trying to help calm me down."
Just prior to an ill-fated '08 European trek Weiland once again entered rehab. He got out in time for the tour but things went sideways during a show in Glasgow when Weiland announced to the audience that they were witnessing "the last tour" by the group. Later, the vocalist argued with a sound person before storming off the stage.
"(We) had a little band (turmoil) onstage as you probably all could tell," wrote Sorum in a blog post the following day.
Just days later, Weiland confirmed his intention to leave the group after the tour. "We were a gang," Weiland wrote in an online post. "But ego and jealousy can get the better of anyone." How did he mean that?
Meanwhile, Stone Temple Pilots announced plans for an extensive reunion tour.
Given a few months to chill Weiland claimed that his split from Velvet Revolver was due to petty disagreements. "When you start bickering about piddly little financial things, it takes the fun out of it for me," explained the frontman. Weiland added that Slash supported his decision to reunite with Stone Temple Pilots, although another unnamed Revolver member didn't.
When it came to finding a replacement for Weiland a number of names surfaced. Among them were Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy, once considered a lock because of past work with Slash; and Corey Taylor, frontman for Slipknot and Stone Sour. But either due to personality or scheduling conflicts the group looked elsewhere.
In September, '11 Slash was the honoree at the annual Road Recovery benefit concert in New York City. Performing with Slash were McKagan and Sorum, with a guest appearance by Kushner. Ours vocalist Jimmy Gnecco sang three songs with the group. A couple months later rumors spread that Gnecco would be Velvet Revolver's vocalist for their '12 tour. That trek never came about.
Weiland, seeming to muddy the waters even further, stated that he had rejoined Velvet Revolver permanently for a tour and an album. That report was denied by Slash a few days later.
There was no rush to find a new frontman largely because Slash was busy touring with his solo band.
That was compounded by infrequent auditions that failed to yield results which kept the group idle and hobbled by an uncertain future.
Meanwhile, Weiland launched a tour with his solo band The Wildabouts. It was marred by tragedy almost immediately when guitarist Jeremy Brown passed away at the age of 34, a day before the release of the group's debut album. Then, just eight months later, Weiland was found dead, apparently dying in his sleep, on a tour stop in Bloomington, MN. Detectives found a small quantity of cocaine in Weiland's tour bus bedroom.
The troubled singer was 48.
Well, somebody has to do it. Meat and potatoes Rock. Stinging riffs, thunderous backbeats and relentless momentum are Velvet Revolver's calling cards. To say "Contraband" is "by the numbers" would be correct but wouldn't do the effort justice. The numbers are there because they work. It's stunning when they are executed to perfection.
Whoever selected "Slither" as the debut single made an excellent call. The brooding Rocker is the set's best song but the others are not far behind. The album kicks off with a trio of nasty Blues tinged Rockers, "Suckertrain Blues," "Do It For The Kids" and "Big Machine." That should be enough to sell anybody. But there's more. The frantic "Set Me Free" and "Fall To Pieces," which comes dangerously close to copping the guitar line from "Sweet Child O' Mine," are exhilarating. Even the acoustic ballad "You Got No Right" and the superior "Loving' The Alien" have their appeal.
While so much could have destroyed or derailed "Contraband" it turns out Velvet Revolver is a potent weapon.
Air guitars, the preferred instrument of millions in the '70s, 80s and 90s, seemed in remission with the demise of Grunge. Well, it's time to bring 'em back. There are enough blistering guitar parts on "Libertad" to keep fingers rhythmically flipping through thin air indefinitely.
Velvet Revolver powers through thirteen tracks with authority and confidence - not to mention Weiland's commanding vocals, Kushner and Slash's fiery guitars and McKagen and Sorum's propulsive rhythms. The set opens with the lusty "Let It Roll," rides irresistible hooks on "She Mine" and "She Builds Quick Machines," and plies a great riff while getting belligerent ("what the f**k were you thinking of") on "Pills, Demons & Etc." The strident "American Man" and popish "Mary Mary" can become quick favorites. Perhaps the most telling point comes late on the album. Anybody who can cover E.L.O., "Can't Get You Out Of My Mind," and not have it sound mawkish or cloying is to be commended. That it sounds pretty good is practically stunning.
So what was Velvet Revolver's legacy? Well, the final word may belong to Slash's wife, Perla Hudson. She summed up the group's brief output saying the music was "not my husband's best work." Sure, Slash's guitar will always associated with Guns N' Roses but Velvet Revolver didn't do too bad either.