The Wrecking CrewThe Soundtrack of Our Lives

The Wrecking Crew
Directed and produced by Denny Tedesco
Magnolia Pictures
Opens in Los Angeles, New York and on VOD and iTunes on March 13

The better-late-than-never telling of the story of the L.A. session musicians who laid down the instrumental tracks for the glorious West Coast pop sound circa early ‘60s through mid-‘70s is especially satisfying in Denny Tedesco’s The Wrecking Crew. Tedesco, son of the late session guitarist Tommy Tedesco, weaves interviews with several of the Crew’s stalwarts including drummers Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye and keyboardist Don Randi, along with comment by many artists and producers they dutifully and so creatively served, including Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa and Glen Campbell.

The film is both a grateful son’s loving tribute to his father –– a gifted musician and ubiquitous presence on the L.A. session scene, and, going by archival clips included in the film, quite a funny fella –– and a really interesting pop history lesson shedding a lot of light on how the pop/rock music industry of that era shifted its center from New York to Los Angeles, where the recording industry was increasingly based and where the film and television studios had long headquartered their operations. The lure of the West brought players from all over the U.S., many of whom back home had excelled in a wide array of styles including rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, soul, jazz and country, and whose varied backgrounds along with years of club dates and recording sessions meant that when called upon to throw down backing tracks –– and often virtually group-compose –– for many if not most of the biggest pop acts of the day including the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra, along with film and TV scores such as Bonanza and the Chipmunks and literally thousands more, they could do it quickly, tightly and so, so imaginatively.

The fact that the Crew did all this in retrospect groundbreaking work (Spector’s famous Wall of Sound recording stratagems or Wilson’s legendary Pet Sounds sessions, to give just two among many examples) for a mere scale session-player fee and for the most part anonymously is what remains particularly mind-blowing about all this, and it might too give you an idea about how much the music biz has evolved over the years –– and devolved back a few steps along the way.

Fascinating archival clips of the Crew in session with studio visionaries such as Spector and Wilson and fellow players Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn and many more are highlights, as is a roundtable bull session among a likeable, down-to-earth bunch of the key Crew players including Blaine, Kaye and Randi. And the soundtrack, of course, is like all the best music you’ve ever heard crammed into 90 minutes of pure, pop bliss. Made with that lovin’ feeling, The Wrecking Crew is just a total blast.
–– John Payne

For more on the Wrecking Crew, check this Bluefat interview with drum king Hal Blaine:

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