Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Wrecking Crew puts names to the notes of some iconic music

The story behind the making of The Wrecking Crew is nearly as interesting as the film itself. In 1995, director Denny Tedesco set out to document the life story of his father, legendary guitarist Tommy Tedesco, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Tommy was one of a group of Los Angeles session musicians in the 1960s known as The Wrecking Crew, who played on thousands of famous albums by such artists as The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert, Dean Martin, The Mamas & the Papas, The Monkees, John Denver and many more.

By 2008, Denny was screening his final cut on the film festival circuit, including its premiere at South by Southwest. However, it took years for him to raise the additional $200,000 needed to secure the licensing rights for the 110 songs heard in the movie.

Finally finding its way into theaters,
The Wrecking Crew follows in the footsteps of Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Muscle Shoals and 20 Feet From Stardom, other documentary salutes to unheralded, behind-the-scenes performers. The Wrecking Crew was the informal moniker assigned to the talented LA-based studio musicians who busied their days and nights with recording sessions, sometimes cutting whole albums in a single day. Although usually uncredited for the music they recorded—with credit frequently going to frontmen who never played a note in the studio—the Wrecking Crew were often well-compensated for their seemingly endless gigs.

Denny spotlights about a dozen of the more notable performers, including drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, bassists Carol Kaye and Joe Osborn, saxophonist Plas Johnson and guitarists Al Casey and Glen Campbell (yes, the Glen Campbell).

It’s not surprising to learn that
The Monkees didn’t play their own studio music. However, Brian Wilson also employed the Wrecking Crew to lay down the tracks for such seminal Beach Boys recordings as “Good Vibrations” and the Pet Sounds album because of the demands of Wilson’s arrangements and the Beach Boys’ lack of available rehearsal time.

The time it took the film to reach distribution has some jarring repercussions. Seven of the featured Wrecking Crew musicians passed away during the intervening years, and it’s startling to see commentary from Dick Clark obviously recorded prior to his December 2004 stroke. The joy of The Wrecking Crew is revisiting a panoply of ‘60s rock standards, with the mostly unknown musicians responsible for the distinctive, intoxicating sound of an era.