Film Review: The Wrecking Crew, A Documentary Film (2008). 5/5 Stars.

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Wrecking Crew regular Carol Kaye front and centre.

Through ten years from the early 60s to the early 70s a loose collective of musicians known as the Wrecking Crew dominated the L.A recording scene playing on several thousand recordings including singles, albums, jingles, TV themes and films scores. These were not touring musicians, these were studio specialists, folk who could turn up to a session listen to a song, throw in some ideas rough up the arrangement and then play it, all in a couple or three hours.

They famously sat in for The Monkees, The Beach Boys and The Byrds among others and the big question of why so many bands did not play on their own records is addressed with the most interesting response coming from Crew regular Glen Campbell who toured with the Beach Boys while the bands leader, bassist and songwriter Brian Wilson stayed at home to work with the rest of the Wrecking Crew on the bands magnum opus ‘Pet Sounds’. “Regardless of whether they were up to playing on the record or not I can see why Brain might not want them around in the studio because all those boys did was argue and bicker. It was tiresome.”

The Byrd’s Roger McGuinn describes the band as being very disappointed when the record company excluded them from their first recording sessions but muses that their first No1 was recorded by the Crew in a couple of hours and their second No1 recorded by the actual band took some 75 takes proving the record company’s initial decision was probably the more financially prudent given the cost of studio time.

We sit in with Brian Wilson, discuss Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ and learn how legendary licks for iconic tunes like The Mission Impossible Theme and Wichita Linesman were constructed. We talk with master songwriter Jimmy Webb and learn about craft of the session player from Glen Campbell. There are conversations with the likes of Cher (Sonny and Cher), Herb Alpert (The Tijuana Brass), Mickey Dolenz (Monkees) and of course a number of lively and telling interviews with various Wrecking Crew members including the amazing Carol Kaye (guitarist, bassist) and the doyen of the Wrecking Crew, guitarist Tommy Tedesco.

By the time I was halfway through this film I realised that so much of what I loved about pop music of that era was as much about the style of these players as it was about the song. The theme from MASH, The Pink Panther Theme, The Age of Aquarius, Something Stupid, These Boots, Up Up and Away and a dozen other tunes that have informed my inner musical world were laid out in front of me offering me a new insights about my own relationship with music.

It was a wondrous time of invention and Denny Tedesco’s (son of Tommy) delightful film captures the moment just as the sun begins to set on living memory. For musicians and music geeks, record collectors, musical archivists, historians and lovers of fine pop music, this is a documentary experience to savour and treasure.

 

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