Power pop band Fountains of Wayne was formed by Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood – they took their name from a now-defunct lawn ornament store in New Jersey. Apart from one fluke hit (2003’s ‘Stacy’s Mom’) they were never huge sellers, but they earned the affection of music aficionados with albums like 1996’s Fountains of Wayne and 1999’s Utopia Parkway. With Schlesinger’s disorienting passing from Covid-19 this week, let’s look back at one of the band’s rarities.
I may not have admitted it at the time, but Britney Spears’ early hits like ‘Oops! …I Did It Again’ and ‘…Baby One More Time’ are robust pop songs. Richard Thompson delivered a great solo acoustic take of ‘Oops! …I Did It Again’ on 1000 Years of Popular Music. During the Utopia Parkway era, Fountains of Wayne needed a b-side for the UK market and heard ‘…Baby One More Time’ on the radio. According to Schlesinger they thought “God this is a really good song” and recorded their own version in an hour in Schlesinger’s apartment.
When they submitted it to their record company, Atlantic announced that ‘…Baby One More Time’ would be the album’s first single. Understandably, Collingwood threw a tantrum and according to Schlesinger it “turned into this big mess”. Fountains of Wayne’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ was shelved, although it was leaked and played on the Howard Stern show. It later turned up on the band’s rarities collection Out-Of-State Plates.
‘…Baby One More Time’ is well constructed, and it sounds great as a guitar-driven power-pop song. Robert Christgau later wrote that it’s “as redolent and fetching as any of [Fountains of Wayne]’s peaks”. A surprising array of artists have covered ‘…Baby One More Time’ – Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa, Travis, Bowling for Soup, and Swedish humorist heavy metal band Black Ingvars are among many versions – but Fountains of Wayne were the first.