The music world has done a lot to help those suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, from donating their talents to charitable efforts such as Saturday’s Together At Home festival or simply hosting performances from the comfort of their own homes for those in quarantine to enjoy. One such event, however, had special meaning for fans of Adam Schlesinger, the Fountains of Wayne bassist who died tragically of coronavirus complications.
On Friday night, the cast of the movie That Thing You Do reunited virtually to watch the movie and share some stories from the formation of the in-movie band, The Wonders (or Oneders if you prefer the pre-Playtone name) and the movie’s filming. The cast had a virtual watch party of the classic 1996 film, which you can watch below.
Before their Music Cares event they talked about the song that serves as the lifeblood of the movie itself. The title track was written by Schlesinger, and in an interview with Variety the band (Ethan Embry, Johnathon Schaech, Tom Everett Scott and Steve Zahn) spoke about just how essential the song’s brilliance was to holding the film together.
EMBRY: Who mentioned the quote that Tom Hanks had said about Adam, that without him, there’d be no Oneders…
SCOTT: There’d be no Playtone. Yeah. It’s true. I mean, that guy threaded the needle on that song, right?
ZAHN: Yeah. I mean, he’s responsible for the entire thing. It’s the heart, the marrow of the whole movie. It’s everything. That had to be it, man! That had to be good enough, but not good enough (to make the band truly stars). It had to walk a really kind of fine line, that song. And not drive you nuts after a while!
The making of the movie itself, and the real-life band practices that were required to make the movie happen, are a fascinating behind-the-scenes about the Tom Hanks written-and-directed project. Their trip to Japan is on YouTube, too, if you need it. And it’s refreshing to hear just how obvious it was to everyone involved that the song would be a real-life hit.
EMBRY: When we started talking about this, it reminded me of a day that we were all sitting in the production office. It was very early once we all got together in Los Angeles, at a conference table, and it was all of us and Liv (Tyler), and I think Gary brought in a small stack of their favorites (from the songs submitted). And we sat there and listened to ‘em, and some varied from like the Who to a Led Zeppelin-y kind of vibe. But the one Adam wrote was just…. [He smacks his hands together.]
The interview also includes the fun times they’ve heard the song in real life as the years passed, including while grocery shopping. It’s hard to make an earworm that doesn’t get tired, and finding one that kept a movie about a one-hit wonder band afloat was essential to That Thing You Do‘s enduring popularity. Its celebration in 2020 is an unfortunate result of Schlesinger’s death, but it’s nice to see it still appreciated decades later.