Magazine article Guitar Player

"What I like about You" the Romantics

Magazine article Guitar Player

"What I like about You" the Romantics

Article excerpt

I CAN'T SPEAK FOR YOU, BUT FOR me, it doesn't matter how many times beer commercials, movie soundtracks, and mainstream rock radio stations hit me over the head with it--I still love the main riff to the Romantics' pop-punk party anthem, "What I Like About You" [Ex. 1]. With its bouncy strumming attack, infectious major triads, and perfect garage rock tone, the famous guitar intro just always sounds fresh--which, to me, is the hallmark of any great riff.

That is exactly why, when I found myself on a double bill with the Romantics in Florida (I was playing the same night with Jefferson Starship), I made it my mission to corner Mike Skill, the guy who wrote and played the Detroit band's iconic "What I Like About You" riff, as well as his bandmate, singer Wally Palmer (who plays second guitar on the song), so I could get the full story on how they created their global mega-hit.

My first objective was to grill Skill for the rig recipe. To my ears, the intro's gritty but wonderfully chimey guitar tone had always sounded like a small, overdriven combo amp pushed high in the mix to sound huge. Skill informed me it was actually the opposite scenario.

"It was a 100-watt Hiwatt head driving a 4x12 at low volume, which is actually not what I wanted," said Skill. "But they made me track quietly and then double- or even triple-track parts later, which I also didn't want to do, because we were kind of against overdubbing. We were aiming for a sound like that of the Who or the Jam--you know, one guitar with the right tone turned way up."

"Also," added Palmer, "we were using baffles to keep things separated, so that's another reason it had to be tracked somewhat quietly. We actually recorded that album not far from here, at Coconuts Recording in Miami, with Peter Solley producing."

Skill played his part on a Rickenbacker 325 "John Lennon" model with, he's pretty sure, only the bridge pickup engaged, but says the song also projects well on a Telecaster. …

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