Even if you’re a fanatical fan of the rock-pop music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you can be excused for never having heard of a group called “The Wrecking Crew.” For one thing there was no such group, at least none that ever got on record labels. For another, their anonymity was the whole point: These were the guys you weren’t supposed to know about.
Put on any oldies station on the radio or Internet and you’re probably listenIng to them. The Wrecking Crew are the wall-of-sound on Phil Spector records or the band Brian Wilson is really recording with for Beach Boys LPs.
Listen to Sonny and Cher, Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, Frank Zappa, Nat “King” Cole, The Association, The Monkeys — well, everyone knew The Monkeys couldn’t play a lick — and you listening to these musicians.
Let’s not even bother to list the movies and TV shows this crew worked on. Some members are even found on novelty records such as ones by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
But they greatly influenced the creative aspects behind those recordings because these were, in the words of Jimmy Webb, “stone cold rock ’n’ roll musicians.”
They brought fire not to mention dynamite baselines to many favorite recordings that vastly improved on the original compositions. To give you an idea, one of their members by the name of Glen Campbell broke out of the group to establish his own musical legacy
They were the best.
Rescuing the group from continuing obscurity is Denny Tedesco, son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco. Such are the vagaries of indie film distribution and, no doubt, music clearances, his documentary film, “The Wrecking Crew,” has kicked around film festivals and music conventions for at least six years.
I showed the film at the UCLA Sneak Preview series several years ago and frankly figured theatrical distribution was a lost cause due to the problem of music clearances and royalties. But Tedesco is persistent.
Many years ago, while his dad was still alive, Tedesco brought together several members of the Crew to film a reunion where they could reminiscence about the old days.
He then followed up with interviews with such legendary names Cher, Dick Clark, Lou Adler, Nancy Sinatra, Snuff Garrett, Herb Alpert, Campbell, Wilson, Webb and others to give testimony to their brilliance — and resilience.
How many musicians are we talking about? No one comes up with an exact figure but general consensus was between 20 to 30. They not only established the so-called “West Coast Sound,” but for an astonishing six years in a row in the ‘60s and early ’70s the Grammy “Record of the Year” went to Wrecking Crew recordings.
All of which would make for a fine time-capsule document. But “The Wrecking Crew” is so much more.
Mixing together interviews with the musician, amazing archival footage of old recording sessions, TV shows, insightful commentary, vintage photos and his dad’s relaxed appearance at a Loyola Marymount University event, Tedesco has put together a scintillating movie — and a heartfelt tribute to his late father.
As you attend a master class in music and recording, you also get one of the most entertaining movies of the year. The research is phenomenal but the editing better. The doc flows to the rhythms of sounds that spit out one hit tune after another like a jukebox gone mad.
And amid all these guys, the movie has its heroine — Carol Kaye. Just “one of the boys,” she rooted her bass guitar work in the jazz arena. In the film she shows how she came up with the bassline for Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.”
This is not just a “must see” movie but a “must hear” one too. Hell, the music alone is worth the price.
Opens: March 13, 2015 Los Angeles, New York (Magnolia Pictures)
Director: Denny Tedesco
Producers: Denny Tedesco, Suzie Greene Tedesco, Damon Tedesco, Chris Hope, Mitchell Linden, Claire Scanlon, Jon Leonoudakis
Executive producers: Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss, Clifford N. Burnstein, Dennis Joyce
Director of photography: Trish Govoni, Rodney Taylor
Music: The Wrecking Crew
Editor: Claire Scanlon
No rating, 101 minutes