A treasure trove of witness-at-creation anecdotes and enduringly potent ’60s pop classics, “The Wrecking Crew” is a well-nigh irresistible treat for aficionados of music from the era when acts like the Beach Boys, the Association and the Monkees were topping the charts. Pic celebrates a loose-knit group of largely unknown (except by industry insiders) session musicians, many of whom supplied the defining licks and backbeats — and in some cases, actually played instruments for band members — on legendary recordings. Nostalgia-drenched rockumentary should score impressively as cable fare, homevid product and public television fund-raiser.
Helmer Denny Tedesco began work on the project shortly before the death of his father, Tommy Tedesco, one of two dozen or so exceptionally versatile session musicians known collectively during their mid-century heyday as the Wrecking Crew. Most had jazz or classical backgrounds before playing for rock, pop and R&B artists (a few, pic notes, made the transition only with extreme reluctance). And all of them, judging from testimony by the elder Tedesco and other interviewees, had the time of their lives while enjoying steady employment and, occasionally, making musical history.
“They were the ones with all the spirit and all the know-how,” recalls an admiring Brian Wilson, who admits using Wrecking Crew members instead of fellow Beach Boys on “Good Vibrations” and other key recordings. Phil Spector used them to create his much-vaunted “Wall of Sound,” and Herb Alpert employed what he calls the “established groove machine” for the trademark sound of his Tijuana Brass.
And at least two instrumental hits (“Surfer’s Stop” and “Let’s Go”), credited to acts who were pictured on album covers and eventually sent out to perform on tour, actually were recorded by uncredited Wrecking Crew artists.
Bassist Carol Kaye, the only female in the group, emerges as the most entertaining of the Wrecking Crew vets in terms of animated storytelling, whether she’s remembering her initial reaction to Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” or proudly reporting that, when she was at the top of her game, she made more money than the U.S. president.
Glen Campbell, a Wrecking Crew vet who eventually toured with the Beach Boys before his solo stardom, joins Cher, Roger McGuinn, Nancy Sinatra and other notables to wax nostalgic about the Wrecking Crew. But it may say even more about the high regard music industryites still have for these session men (and woman) that Danny Tedesco was able to obtain rights to so many hit tunes for his pic’s wall-to-wall soundtrack.
Archival footage, still photos and interviews shot in various formats over several years are neatly assembled in a technically polished package.