Certain Songs #1389: Old 97’s – “What I Wouldn’t Do”

Album: Satellite Rides
Year: 2001

The thing about Satellite Rides was that it was almost an embarrassment of riches. Nearly every single song was a winner, from the power chord opener “King of All The World,” and running winners like “Rollerskate Skinny” and “Designs on You.”

Hell, even the outtakes were lit: the bonus-CD only “Singular Girl” is as good as anything on the record. And smack damn in the middle were a pair of songs that pretty much made the record for me — tomorrow’s subject, “Question” and the insanely hooky “What I Wouldn’t Do.”

Fueled by a descending Ken Berthea guitar riff that was a distant cousin of the riff that Dave Davies wrapped around “Sunny Afternoon, “What I Wouldn’t Do” lives and dies around the title chorus hook.

What I wouldn’t do to be friends with you
What I wouldn’t do
What I wouldn’t do
What I wouldn’t do to be friends with you
What I wouldn’t do
What I wouldn’t do

What works about that chorus for me is the harmonies between Miller and bassist Murry Hammond. They’re off. Just the tiniest little bit. And that tiniest little bit is just about every thing. It’s Miller, I think. He’s continually wandering off pitch, and the grit and frisson that it adds to the song makes it stick instantly in your head.

And they know it: not only do they stop the song entirely nearly every single time just before the chorus in order to draw attention to it, the last minute of the song — after a blistering Bethea solo — is Miller & Hammond singing it over and over again, always on top of the massive guitar hook.

“What I Wouldn’t Do”

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