My drummer walked me out to his VW Beetle a few minutes after I'd tucked my guitar away for the night. He’d come to see me play a solo show in West Hollywood, and the handful of people who’d actually paid to get in had long since filed out of the club.
He said he had something he wanted me to hear. He played drums in another band, and they’d just had a song mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, the hit-making engineer behind some huge rock anthems.
I sat in the passenger seat, and was immediately assaulted by a guitar riff that was both familiar and different, kind of like the Cars had come of age in the 2000s. And within a few seconds, I knew my drummer had a hit on his hands.
So did he.
The song exploded a few weeks later across modern-rock radio and into teenage house parties, a supermodel signed on for the music video, and the band took off into the stratosphere. My drummer still played shows with me, but they were wedged between sold-out tours and criminally lucrative private parties. I was stoked for him. By then he was, more importantly, a good friend.
He introduced me to the main songwriters in his other band, and I worked with one of them on early For The Sender songs in my aunt’s Greenwich Village apartment. Over the next decade, we’d cross paths as I chased a dream and they lived one.
There’s a photo of one of those moments, all of us together in a New York City bar, the guy sitting next to me obscured by an unfortunate marriage of camera angle and body parts.
I reached out to my drummer for the first time in a too-long time yesterday, after I got the news that Adam Schlesinger had died due to complications from COVID-19. Adam left his melodic mark on the pop-culture landscape, both during his time in Fountains of Wayne and after, as he embarked on a successful career composing for film and television.
Until we lost him to the same virus that is somehow unifying a country with intent, when we needed it most, even as we’re more divided physically than ever.
Adam Schlesinger made a lot of people’s lives better.
Including mine, as I sat in that VW Beetle over 15 years ago, nodding my smiling face to a song he co-wrote and co-produced.
You can smile today, too: