Having watched the 60s spy comedy “The Wrecking Crew” the other day, I was inspired to look out the documentary about the collective of West Coast session musicians who were hired to record backing tracks for dozens of artists during the 1960s who are also known as The Wrecking Crew.
Directed by Denny Tedesco in his directorial debut, this documentary, also called “The Wrecking Crew!” was released in 2008. Denny is the son of Tommy Tedesco, one of the guitarists involved in the Wrecking Crew.
The name “The Wrecking Crew” was reportedly coined by drummer Hal Blaine in reference to the impression that he and his young colleagues gave to older, more established session musicians who thought that they were going to wreck the music industry. This has, however, been disputed by other members of the collective, such as bass player Carol Kaye, who insist that the name was an invention of Blaine’s in the early 1990s.
What is not in dispute, though, is just how prolific and in demand these musicians were. Producers Phil Spector and Brian Wilson regularly called on them, and they can be heard on recordings by The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Elvis Presley, The Mamas & The Papas, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters and many many more.
This was at a time when record producing moved from New York to Los Angeles, allowing a new breed of musician to take centre stage in the studio. The record companies were more than happy with this state of affairs as the records could be turned out far more quickly and professionally than would have been the case if the actual artists were allowed to play on them!
Although it was fairly widely known that The Monkees didn’t play on their records, the extent to which the Wrecking Crew were used was kept quiet, leading the general public to believe – as most probably still do – that acts such as The Beach Boys actually played the music heard on many of their records, but as Brian Wilson’s ideas and compositions grew more complex he found it easier to use the Wrecking Crew than his own band.
The film features clips from various recording sessions and interviews with some of the artists that the Wrecking Crew recorded for, including Brian Wilson, The Monkees and Cher.
Some of the Wrecking Crew musicians also recreate some of the most famous parts that they played.
There are also interviews and conversations involving Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, Earl Palmer, Glen Campbell and Plas Johnson as they discuss the sessions they played on, the lifestyle that they had and the impact their work had on their family lives. This was particularly poignant for the director as his father passed away from cancer between him starting the film project and it finally being finished nearly twelve years later in 2008.
I really enjoyed this fascinating look into the music business as it was in the 1960s and at some of the key musicians on the scene at the time – I would heartily recommend this to anyone with a serious interest in music or just a love of the music of this era…