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What The Whiskey Says

A Tribute To Adam Schlesinger

by Jason Warburg

adam_400I wasn’t going to write this piece. It’s exhausting enough right now (April 3, 2020) just trying to keep up as the world we knew three short weeks ago continues to spin wildly off its orbit, without attempting to grieve on the page for an artist whose work has given me decades of enjoyment, now dead at just 52 of COVID-19. This week has been one gut-punch after another.

The trick of art, though—the kind that worms its way into people’s hearts and minds and lives, populating or punctuating moments both significant and insignificant—is that it grants a kind of immortality. If it’s true that “what is remembered, lives,” then songwriter supreme Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne isn’t gone, he’s merely stepped outside for a moment, in search of another distinctive tale to tell. The songs that Schlesinger and Fountains co-founder Chris Collingwood created for the band are remarkable for their exceptional craft and attention to detail, finely cut gems populated by characters described so deftly that each one seemed to leap out of your speakers into three-dimensional existence in the space of a handful of lines.

We instinctively cared about these characters’ lives and fates, which led to us caring about their creators, too, in not entirely rational ways. I never met Adam Schlesinger, never spoke with him, never traded a single email or message of any kind. And yet losing him feels like losing a friend of many years, because of his songs and the worlds they brought to life in my imagination.

Still, I’ve written thousands of words about Adam’s work already—a full-throated appreciation of Fountains Of Wayne, a column ranking their albums, and reviews of every one, not to mention of his all-star side project Tinted Windows. Rather than rehashing any of the above, let’s turn the spotlight where it belongs, on the man’s tremendous gifts as a songwriter. What follows is a list of my favorite Fountains of Wayne songs, with favorite lines from each lyric. It’s important to note that every song Adam and Chris wrote for Fountains Of Wayne was co-credited to them both, in true Lennon-McCartney fashion, regardless of who the primary writer was on any given tune. Be that as it may, Adam played a role in creating every one of these songs, and I’ll be forever grateful. R.I.P.


“Leave the Biker”fountainsofwayne_st_150

He's got his arms around every man's dream
And crumbs in his beard from the seafood special
Oh can't you see my world is falling apart?
Baby please, leave the biker
Leave the biker, break his heart

*

“Utopia Parkway”
Well I've been saving for a custom van
And I've been playing for a cover bandfountainsofwayne_utopia_150
And my baby doesn't understand
Why I never turned from boy to man

“Red Dragon Tattoo”
Now will you stop pretending I've never been born
Now I look a little more like that guy from KorN 

*

“Mexican Wine”
Because the sun still shines in the summer time
I'll be yours if you'll be mine
I tried to change, but I changed my mind
Think I'll have another glass of Mexican winefountainsofwayne_welcome

“Bright Future In Sales”
Sleeping on a planter at the Port Authority
Waiting for my bus to come
Seven scotch-and-sodas at the office party
Now I don't remember where I'm from

“Stacy’s Mom”
And I know that you think it's just a fantasy
But since your dad walked out, your mom could use a guy like me

“Hackensack”
Now I see your face in the strangest places
Movies and magazines
I saw you talkin' to Christopher Walken
On my TV screen

“No Better Place”
Is that supposed to be your poker face
Or was someone run over by a train

You're awake and trying not to be
Wrapped around your pillow like a prawn

And it may be the whiskey talking
But the whiskey says I miss you every day

“Valley Winter Song”
The snow is coming down
On our New England town
And it's been falling all day long
What else is new
What can I do
But sing this valley winter song
I wrote for you

“All Kinds Of Time”
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

* fountainsofwayne_outofstate

“Maureen”
I pick her up outside the station
She's telling me about her spring vacation
She's not leaving much to the imagination
She's giving me way too much information

*

“’92 Subaru”
My cousin Kerry is taking a look at the transmission
Putting in the lime green plasma screen television
Seats feel like leather, you can't even tell that they're fake
And I only got a couple of easy payments left to makefountainsofwayne_traffic_150

“Yolanda Hayes”
It occurs to me
Suddenly
She's been here for an eternity
The hours pass, the days go by
But has anybody
Really tried
To cross that line
To get inside?

“Traffic And Weather”
Channel Six news team
Breaking story ’bout a get-rich-quick scheme
One anchor turns and faces the other
Says it's time that I made you my lover

“Revolving Dora”
See her spinning, see her grinning at her imaginary friends
She's in her own rotating world
There's something blurry about that girl

“Strapped For Cash”
Six bodybuilders pulled up in a Pinto
Next thing I know they're coming through the window
Hate to keep you waiting, I know times are hard
Now would you prefer a Visa or a MasterCard

“I-95”
Hip-hop stations are fading in and out
All I'm receiving now
Is a kick drum mixed with static
Constellations are blinking in the sky
The road is open wide
And it feels so cinematic

“New Routine”
Two men sit in the corner of a diner
Both of them look quite a bit like Carl Reiner
One of them is smoking even though the sign says not to
The waitress says to stop, he says sorry but I've got to

*

“The Summer Place”fountainsofwayne_sky_150
Her mom would sit on the patio
She said she needed the sea air
She'd drink a fifth of Seagram’s
And then she'd sink down into her deck chair

“Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart”
Whistle in the sweet pine trees
The imaginary airport breeze
It flickers and flows
Fans fires in the road and
All we want to do is go home

“A Dip In The Ocean”
Get a load of the light in the trees
And the sweet decay on the maritime breeze
The sun's hitching on a weather balloon
And the heat off the tarmac
Burning a hole in a gold afternoon

“Cold Comfort Flowers”
They evolve in time
Wind finely on the vine
Climbing toward the spots in the sun
An unwelcome fate
May ferry all away
But cold comfort flowers
Will bloom and decay

“Cemetery Guns”
Cemetery Guns go bang bang bang
Shooting all the sky full of holes
Twenty-one times in row
For the blue war widow in the gray raincoat
On the green grass down below

#

All lyrics © Adam Schlesinger & Chris Collingwood.



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