If you’ve never heard of a documentary called The Wrecking Crew, I’m not surprised. Even though the film has won 10 film festivals including four Audience Awards, and been an official selection in at least 28 others all over the world, if you weren’t at one of those festivals you probably don’t know it exists.
On top of that, I’m betting that you’ve probably never heard of the film’s subject matter by the same name either. The Wrecking Crew was a group of young studio musicians who played on nearly every top 1960s pop hit recorded in Los Angeles. They were the creators of the “West Coast Sound” popularized by bands such as the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Monkees, and the Mamas & the Papas. They laid down the tracks for superstars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joe Cocker, Glen Campbell, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, and Nat King Cole.
Producers would pull together a group of these musical geniuses, record some tracks, and if a track became a hit, the group would get a name and go on the road. The following week, a different producer might put the same musicians together under a different name and do the same thing. Often the band members that toured weren’t the ones that played on the original record, and some of the touring band members weren’t good enough to play the licks that the Wrecking Crew had recorded, so the songs never sounded the same live as they did on the albums. It was the Wrecking Crew, and the innovative minds of producers such as Phil Spector, that drove the record industry to the west coast.
The documentary, directed by Denny Tedesco, the son of legendary studio musician Tommy Tedesco, offers an insightful journey into the lives of this core group of musicians and the birth of West Coast Sound. For these musicians that were seldom given credit for their contributions, the days were long and taxing. Many had children they rarely saw, others went through a string of marriages. But back then, the contracts were good, the money flowed in, and the Wrecking Crew members were doing what they loved.
The Wrecking Crew is told solely through interviews with 1960s icons such as Cher, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, and Glen Campbell, as well as with the Wrecking Crew musicians themselves. They tell the stories you’ve never heard about the singers and bands we all grew up with. Some are funny, others are tragic, and together they weave together a realistic, and sometimes poignant picture of the music that shaped a generation. Along with spit-fire Tommy Tedesco, one of the most interesting members was Carol Kaye . As the only woman in the group, and undeniably one of the best bass players in history, she climbed right to the top of this exclusive group when, as she puts it, “Back then, it was more important for a woman to put that ‘Mrs.’ in front of her name than it was to have a career.”
The documentary has been a long time in the making. Denny Tedesco began working the project back in 1995 when his father, Tommy, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Faced with the impending loss, Tedesco decided to use the documentary as a way to capture a series of snapshots that depicted his father’s life and career as a studio musician, as well as the lives of the others that changed the future of the music industry.
If you love music, The Wrecking Crew is a great way to spend an hour and a half. This documentary offers an honest, and for the most part lighthearted view into a world that few know about. It’s like being a fly on the wall of a studio session with some of the most talented musicians you’ve never met. And even if you don’t remember all the artists and songs, the stories about eccentric music producers and the personal experiences of these musicians will leave you grinning.
For screening dates and times, to watch clips, and read exclusive interviews, visit www.wreckingcrewfilm.com or visit the film’s Facebook page.