Upon his death from coronavirus complications last week, Fountains Of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger was widely praised as a power-pop master. Schlesinger was responsible for a staggering number of great songs, but he’s best known for “Stacy’s Mom,” a novelty hit from 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers that significantly raised Fountains Of Wayne’s profile.
This doesn’t sit well with Fountains Of Wayne singer Chris Collingwood, who collaborated with Schlesinger on so many of those classic tracks. In a new Rolling Stone interview reflecting on Schlesinger’s life and legacy, Collingwood says he attempted to dissuade his bandmates from releasing their biggest hit because he knew it would come to overshadow the rest of their work. “[Schlesinger] was too good a writer to have that be his calling card, and the success of a novelty song means that’s just what you are to the public, from that moment on forever,” Collingwood said.
Here are his extended thoughts on the matter:
I tried to talk him out of “Stacy’s Mom.” I could see exactly what was going to happen, and when it started happening in slow motion it just felt inevitable. He was too good a writer to have that be his calling card, and the success of a novelty song means that’s just what you are to the public, from that moment on forever. It’s sad to me that people reading his obituary will all know that song, and only a very tiny percentage of them will ever hear “I-95″ or “The Girl I Can’t Forget.”
I was reluctant to [record] it at all, but in the moment you don’t want to kill the session by not being a good sport. There were other things we did, kind of joking around, that we would put out as a B-side or whatever. When it was done, I didn’t think it belonged on the album. Even on a record that was stylistically all over the place, that song didn’t fit in. It sounded like a different band.
I knew it would be a single, and I knew it would be a hit, and everyone else knew it too. But I was the only one who didn’t think a novelty hit was a good thing. We had done a version of “…Baby One More Time” because we needed a B-side for something, and our label at the time took it to radio and tried to make it a single. I was like, “What? We wrote a bunch of songs, what about those?” Literally any other band in the world could have recorded that Britney Spears song. Then some other bands did. Probably had the same fight with their label.
It’s like being able to tell a really good story — like “Fire Island,” which he wrote for that album — but deciding instead to tell a joke and jump off stage. He deserves to be remembered for more than a punch line.
In addition to the standalone Collingwood interview, Rolling Stone’s Simon Vozick-Levinson spoke to many of Schlesinger’s friends and associates for an in-depth look at the songwriter, which is well worth your time.