'...Baby One More Time' is undoubtedly one of the best-known modern pop songs, and it's hard to imagine anyone but Britney Spears singing it.

If Simon Cowell had had his way, however, we would have heard a very different version of the song.

It had previously been revealed by songwriter Max Martin that the track had been originally written for TLC, who turned it down.

However, once Cowell heard the song, he wanted it for boyband 5ive, who he was managing at the time - and he was willing to go to desperate measures to persuade the Swedish pop maestro to part ways with it.

He recounted the story on Howie Mandel's podcast 'Howie Mandel Does Stuff', marking his first-ever podcast appearance.

He said: "I had a boy band at the time called 5ive, who I’d put together. And we were just on the verge of breaking them from America. Someone phones me from America and says, “I’ve just been played this song. And it was written for TLC.” TLC passed. The guy plays it down the phone to me, this song “Hit me baby one more time.” I’m like, “My God, I’ve got to have this song.”

"So I phoned up Max. I said, “Max. Please, please give me this song.” And he went, “I’ve promised it to someone else.” And I said, “Well, I’ll send you a Mercedes — literally a Mercedes 500 SL if I can have this song.” And he went, “No. I promised it to somebody else.” And I went, “Who.” He said, “Britney Spears.” I said, “Max, let me give you some advice. No one is going to have a hit with a name called Britney Spears.”

Of course, Cowell was extremely wrong and it has become the troubled pop star's signature song.

5ive, on the other hand? They're now a trio who occasionally reform and play one-off novelty gigs. We'll never know if that song would have changed everything for them.

Watch Cowell's full interview below: