Reviewed by GREG KING


Director: Denny Tedesco.

Music lovers have been well served recently with a number of superb documentaries. The prolific Alex Gibney gave us a warts and all look at the rise James Brown, the “hardest working man in show biz”, and there was also the informative and insightful documentary about the tragic Amy Winehouse. There was Muscle Shoals, about the hit making recording studio in Alabama where the likes of Paul Simon, Bob Seger and even the Rolling Stones recorded some of their best works. And there was the Oscar winning Twenty Feet From Stardom, which looked at the backup singers, those anonymous vocalists who have added texture and colour to numerous hits records and who also supported performers during their tours.

The Wrecking Crew is another fascinating and revealing documentary that looks at another group of anonymous and unsung musicians who were the backbone of the golden era of pop music. The Wrecking Crew were a bunch of talented Los Angeles based session musicians who played on many of the biggest hit records of the 60s and 70s, including The Beach Boys’ seminal Pet Sounds album, the Monkees, and even Frank Sinatra. Even legendary producer Phil Spector used them to help create his famous “wall of sound”. In fact, they provided the music for six consecutive Grammy winning Records of the Year. They even played on some of the more iconic television show themes, from Bonanza to Green Acres and M*A*S*H.

Many of these musicians hailed from a background in jazz or blues, but they quickly adjusted to the demands of backing artists like Elvis or Dean Martin in the recording studio. They worked long hours, often putting down several tracks at different recording studios in one day. But often their success came at great personal cost.

We learn how the group gained its name – many of the older musicians feared that these musicians coming into the recording studio to play rock and roll would wreck the music industry. While you may not recognise their names, you have probably heard the hit songs they have played on.

The film marks the feature directorial debut for Denny Tedesco, the filmmaking son of Tommy Tedesco, the legendary session musician who was an integral member of the so-called wrecking crew. This was something of a passion project for Tedesco, who began working on the film in 1997 as a homage to his father, who was diagnoised with terminal cancer. But the project was put on hold for a few years while he tried to raise financing via a crowd funding campaign to pay for the expensive music rights (there are some 100 songs heard during the film).

The Wrecking Crew is a loving tribute to the period, drenched in nostalgia with a soundtrack to die for, featuring a wealth of samples from hit songs that defined the era and will resonate particularly strong with the baby boomer generation. There is a wealth of archival footage and photographs to add texture to the material. As well there are interviews former members of the crew such as Glen Campbell, who went on to establish a successful solo career, and performers like Cher, Herb Alpert, Leon Russell, Brian Wilson, songwriter Jimmy Webb, and music stalwart Dick Clark, who provide insights into this exciting period. They deliver many fascinating and often amusing anecdotes. There is also a melancholy note to many of their recollections though.

Carol Kaye was the only female member of this elite group of musicians, but she was far from a token female as she created some of the most memorable riffs on her bass guitar. She recalls that at one point in her career she was earning more money than the President of the United States. But other members of the group such as drummer Hal Blaine fell on hard times and his story makes for a sobering moment.

The Wrecking Crew is a fabulously entertaining documentary that is be a must see for music lovers of any age.



Speak Your Mind