Adam Schlesinger tragically died at age 52 on Wednesday (April 1) due to coronavirus complications, and the pop world has lost one of its most accomplished songwriters. Along with appearing in multiple musical projects, penning songs for other stars and his film and TV work, Schlesinger was a founding member of the band Fountains of Wayne — and when you mention Fountains of Wayne to a casual fan, they’re likely going to think of two words: “Stacy’s Mom.”
“Stacy’s Mom,” a single told from the perspective of a young boy who has to tell his friend Stacy that he’s actually attracted to her mother instead of her, became an out-of-nowhere success for Fountains of Wayne in 2003, leading the quartet to previously unforeseen chart success and accolades. You’ve surely heard it on the radio, caught a cover version or two, or may even remember the memorable music video scaling the heights of Total Request Live. But there’s a lot more to “Stacy’s Mom” worth knowing, especially now as we reflect on Schlesinger’s remarkable career.
Here are 10 awesome facts about Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom,” and the success that it brought Schlesinger:
1. The song was partially inspired by Schlesinger’s grandmother.
Following the release of “Stacy’s Mom” in 2003, Schlesinger said that its lyrics focused on “that period when you’re first hitting puberty and suddenly everybody of the opposite sex is strangely attractive,” in an interview with MTV. The specific concept of a young boy lusting after an older woman also hit close to home. “One of my best friends, when we were maybe 11 or 12, came to me and announced that he thought my grandmother was hot,” Schlesinger said. “And I said, ‘Hey, you’re stepping over the line,’ but at that point in life, I wouldn’t put it past anyone.”
2. Fountains of Wayne had been around for years when “Stacy’s Mom” came out.
A crossover hit did not come quickly for Schlesinger and his bandmates, Chris Collingwood, Jody Porter and Brian Young: The group formed in the North Jersey/ New York City area in 1995 and released its self-titled debut album in 1996. Fountains of Wayne did not see a full-length crack the Billboard 200 albums chart until Welcome Interstate Managers, which included “Stacy’s Mom,” was released in 2003; the band was actually dropped by Atlantic Records after its first two albums underperformed and released Welcome Interstate Managers on the indie label S-Curve Records.
3. The sound of “Stacy’s Mom” was influenced by The Cars.
Schlesinger often brought up Ric Ocasek’s band as a key inspiration for the new wave sound of “Stacy’s Mom,” which refracted Fountains of Wayne’s polished songwriting through a more radio-friendly prism straight from the early ‘80s. Need more proof that the song was a Cars homage? Compare its chugging guitar intro to that of the 1978 hit “Just What I Needed.”
4. And Fountains of Wayne shouted out the band in the music video.
At the 12-second mark in the “Stacy’s Mom” music video, one of the boys is clearly rocking the Ric Ocasek look with his clothing and haircut; a few seconds later, Stacy’s mom’s license plate reads “I <3 RIC.” Add in the Fountains of Wayne guys appearing on the cover of the fictional Nu-Wave magazine, and we’ve got a heart-on-sleeve ode to a pop era of the past and one of its central figures. Also, the video pays homage to Phoebe Cates’ famous Fast Times at Ridgemont High pool scene, which is set to — what else? — a Cars song, “Moving in Stereo,” in the 1982 film.
5. Stacy’s Mom was a supermodel — in the video, at least.
The Chris Applebaum-directed music video — which lets the lyrics play out fairly literally, as a young boy lusts over his female friend’s bombshell mother — starred Rachel Hunter, a New Zealand model who had already appeared on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue once and was three years away from appearing on it again. How did Fountains of Wayne convince Hunter to take the wink-filled role and writhe around on a kitchen countertop? Simple: She liked their music. ”She was a fan, she liked the song and the band, and she thought it was a good idea, and who are we to say no?” Schlesinger said of Hunter in a 2003 Washington Post interview. “She was absolutely perfect for it, she totally got the song and did the video in the right spirit.”
6. “Stacy’s Mom” became Fountains of Wayne’s first Hot 100 hit.
The single peaked at No. 21 on the chart and nearly reached the top 10 of the U.K. singles chart as well. “Stacy’s Mom” is also the band’s only song to ever reach the Hot 100, even though they continued recording and touring for another decade. A bittersweet quote from Schlesinger in a 2005 interview with The New York Times: “It’s bizarre to be seen as a one-hit wonder, especially so late in our career,” he said. “I always felt that we had a lot of potential singles. If not, we’ll be playing ‘Stacy’s Mom’ in Las Vegas when we’re 75.”
7. It also gave Fountains of Wayne their first Grammy nominations.
Following the success of “Stacy’s Mom,” Fountains of Wayne were nominated for two awards at the 2004 Grammy Awards — including best new artist, even though they had been a band for nearly a decade at the time of the ceremony. The group lost out to Evanescence in the category, while “Stacy’s Mom” was trumped by No Doubt’s “Underneath It All” in the best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals category. Years earlier, Schlesinger had scored an Oscar nomination for the title track from the 1996 film That Thing You Do!, and would later win Emmy Awards for his songwriting work for the Tony Awards and on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
8. There are a whole bunch of “Stacy’s Mom” cover versions on the Internet.
The most prominent riff of the Fountains of Wayne hit comes from alt-rock group Bowling for Soup, who scored a power-pop crossover of their own one year after “Stacy’s Mom” with “1985.” Yet YouTube also offers a rabbit hole of fun homages to the original, from cover bands to genre mash-ups. May we interest you in Postmodern Jukebox’s “hot jazz” version?
9. Fountains of Wayne never shied away from “Stacy’s Mom” as their big hit.
Fountains of Wayne released two albums after Welcome Interstate Managers — 2007’s Traffic and Weather and 2011’s Sky Full of Holes — and although neither returned the group to top 40 radio, the band still played their crowd-pleaser on tour, often as part of the encore, including on their last trek in 2013. “We certainly would like to be known for more than that song, because we’ve written hundreds of other songs too,” Schlesinger said in an interview while supporting Sky Full of Holes. “But we don’t worry too much about hit singles in general — we just try to write songs we like.” A decade after its release, people still loved “Stacy’s Mom”: It was used in a popular Cadillac commercial in 2013.
10. “Stacy’s Mom” still rules.
This isn’t a “fact,” per se, but it’s also indisputable: Schlesinger’s biggest career hit sounds as fresh, feisty and fun to sing along with in 2020 as it did in 2003. The call-and-response vocals, the synths that get turned up in the chorus, the giddy handclaps in the final hook — let’s face it, the tongue-in-cheek lyrics work as well as they do because they’re built upon an impeccable piece of pop craft. Schlesinger helped write an astonishing number of great tracks over the course of his career, but if “Stacy’s Mom” is to be his ultimate mainstream legacy, at least it’s a darn good one.