Adam Schlesinger, 52 — He Had "All Kinds of Time"

The Coronavirus got singer-songwriter and Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger on Wednesday. He was 52. That wasn't supposed to happen to someone so young. He had "All Kinds of Time". Though that FOW song from the album Welcome Interstate Managers is about a football quarterback standing in the pocket, it was the first song I played after learning Schlesinger had succumbed to the virus. it's a stop-action suspended animation song with an oddly downcast mood that fits the news.

As New York Times music journalist Ben Sisario points out in his Schlesinger obit, he and FOW co-founder Chris Collingwood derived their tuneful pop-rockery from the Kinks and from Big Star and the Cars. Paul Simon seeps through too, on songs like "Hey Julie" and "Valley Winter Song", but Schlesinger's overall musical vibe was his own brand of rootless suburban post teenage angst also expressed by Matthew Sweet and the under appreciated Canadian group The Odds.

While Ray Davies' milieu was "suburban" England, Schlesinger's was the New York/New Jersey metro area. "Fire Island" is about kids left alone while the parents summer on "Fire Island" (straight people go there too!). You can almost see the backyard where the song's protagonist oogled "Stacy's Mom", their best known but hardly their best song. The Montclair, New Jersey native placed a song of adolescent loser love in "Hackensack" (as of course did Monk and Billy Joel) and the 1999 album Utopia Parkway refers to a Queens, New York street that's hardly a parkway—in fact it's a pathetic misnomer that Schlesinger probably found both amusing and sad. How do I know that? When I was a kid I used to bicycle on it to Flushing to buy records. I also lived in Hackensack. When the character in that song sings about working in a Hackensack record store, I know the one. And of course when we bought a house with a pool we headed over to Fountains of Wayne, in Wayne, NJ. It was a real place, and Schlesinger's untimely death is a real damn shame.

Maybe those oblique connections are why his going so young got to me, but I think it's more of what you'll hear in "Prom Theme", which is another downcast look at what's supposed to be a teen years highlight but in Schlesinger's rear view mirror, really isn't.

And then there's the debut album's cover. At first it looks like the kid's wearing a Superman costume but not really. It's the best he could do. He's kind of "taking off" but not really, and he looks pretty miserable though he's trying his best to lift his spirits. I hear that in many of Schlesinger's songs. Maybe the song that gets me most right now, as we also deal with the deaths of Ellis Marsalis, Bucky Pizzarelli and Bill Withers—all in a short time period and not all from Coronavirus— is Adam's song of suburban disillusion, "A Fine Day for a Parade". Check it out.

MicallefK's picture

I loved the last album, Sky Full of Holes. So many great songs, including Road Song, Action Hero, Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart, The Summer Place. Pop songwriting mini masterpieces.

R Wade's picture

Adam was an underrated wordsmith with a tongue in cheek irony that was unique. Welcome Interstate Managers by FOW is an excellent album. Sonics not so good. Music very strong with memorable tunes that have stayed with me for years. Especially endearing were the lyrics to "Hackensack".

Dpoggenburg's picture

And let's not forget That Thing You Do!, which might be the song he's best known for, and nobody even knows who he is. And PLEASE seek out "Way Back Into Love" from the Music and Lyrics soundtrack -- big league song writing. RIP buddy.

HalSF's picture

A beautiful tribute to Adam and one of my most-loved songs.

He takes a step back
He's under attack
But he knows that no one can touch him now
He seems so at ease
A strange inner peace
Is all that he's feeling somehow

adw's picture

It's so terribly sad to lose an artist of this caliber; for me, Welcome Interstate Managers is in constant rotation, Traffic & Weather too, to a lesser degree. Adam Schlesinger's inimitable love of language is the reason why we have these indescribably droll names on a band and on so many songs. Adam, we will miss you desperately and never forget you, how could we, you'll be performing for us until we join you, in spirit, at a rest stop, off the Turnpike.

Tom L's picture

...who wrote the ultimate FOW (sort of) tribute "Fountains of Wayne Hotline":

pchristian's picture

My introduction to FOW - like so many other people - was Stacey's Mom. And Like a lot of other people, I quickly learned that they were so much more than that song. As I dug into the back catalog, I realized the genius of this band. For me "Traffic and Weather" is my favorite. What other band can work in a reference to Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons (NY reporters), and make it cool. I also, always loved their cover of "Can't Get it Out of My head" from "Out-Of-State-Plates". Great band, great songwriter. I am sad for what we will never get to hear from him.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I caught onto FOW late and hav'nt played the albums in a while, so now's a good time to pull them out and enjoy the greatness that was Adam Schlesinger, RIP.