Film Reviews

THE WRECKING CREW

By • Mar 13th, 2015 •

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Reflecting upon the days of youth when children praise their parents, age like the rain may wash away some of the gleaming cheeriness of childhood brightness or it can all be sucked away in a vortex-like black hole, leaving thoughts and feelings glazed with bile. Then there are those bestowed with good grace from above who much later in life continually revere their fathers whilst whistling their memories to a sweet tune. THE WRECKING CREW is Danny Tedesco’s ode to his beloved father.

In the days when vinyl records dominated and AM radio blared music, musicians began migrating to the west coast for Los Angeles. With Motown in the Motor City and Nashville’s banjos twanging to the country scene, Southern California became the most rockinest city in the country. The Beach Boys, The Ronettes, Sonny and Cher, Ricky Nelson, The Association, The Monkees, and Nancy Sinatra were part of a sound wave that was created and recorded under the direction of notables such as Phil Spector in places like Gold Star Studios. Dominating top spots on album charts was common as one hit after another was released.

Care to sing along? You most likely have heard many of these songs. But, do you know the secret that ties these songs along with commercial jingles and television show themes? Literally, thousands of musical pieces share this one tie: The Wrecking Crew. The musicians whose images and names appear on the album covers were not the talent that recorded these albums. The unsung heroes of these songs are (for the most part) the faceless and nameless members of an unofficial roster of studio musicians that are collectively now dubbed, The Wrecking Crew.

When The Beach Boys went on tour or other bands mentioned in the film decided to take their act on the road, these musicians had to learn the music on the album. Brian Wilson was the talent behind The Beach Boys who wrote the music and conducted the sessions with Wrecking Crew members. Time is money and these musicians could knock out song after song in record time. The Monkees were actors portraying musicians. Micky Dolenz remembers when he witnessed a recording session for The Monkees and then started drum lessons the following Monday leading up to his debut a year later.

The documentary was filmed in the 90’s when Danny Tedesco learned of his father’s terminal illness. Guitarist Tommy Tedesco was a Los Angeles transplant from Niagara Falls who was lucky and fortunate enough to be a full time working musician during the period in the 60’s – 80’s compiling an accomplished list of credits with the who’s who in the world of music. Frank Sinatra and Elvis are just two of the music titans for whom Tedesco laid down tracks. This is even better for a guy who really didn’t read music that had to work in a factory before a six string paid the bills.

A round table discussion with Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Plas Johnson, and the only woman of the crew, Carol Kaye, relive the memories of being the hardest working people in show business. Carol is exuberant mentioning that she was making more money than the President of The United States. They worked day and night for – who can remember the names, or care to – as long as the checks cleared.

Their discussion is intercut with archival footage, snapshots, album covers, and interviews with Cher, Nancy Sinatra, and others who were center stage or part of the Wrecking Crew. The film also serves as a nostalgic and sad look back at a time prior to illness and death. Featured are Dick Clark, who presented many of these groups on his various television shows throughout the decades, and a former Wrecking Crew guitarist who was boosted to the limelight and recently on his farewell tour due to Alzheimer’s disease – Glen Campbell.

This film was a long time coming. Shooting began in the mid 1990’s. Kickstarter was instrumental in the film’s release since it has been in music licensing hell, originally premiering at the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival. The crowd-funding effort raised $313,157 to grease those union palms. With a resurgence in vinyl recently, it seems appropriate that this film come out now. I must say, the 4:3 aspect ratio of some of the interview footage is a reminder that the format should forever be forgotten.

For those that love music and its history, this is for you. If you harbor such disdain for barely articulate rhyming mediocrity and drum machines accompanied by girls with fat asses bouncing around expensive cars, and are bewildered by the lowest common denominator generating such a massive income, please watch THE WRECKING CREW to appreciate real talent. And stay for the end credits because it is a fantastic musical experience and it must have cost the entire $300,000 to pay for the tunes.

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