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|Index||24 reviews in total|
Imagine if every hit song of the late 50s, 60s, 70s, and even into the
80s was performed by one band. Ridiculous, huh? Well, guess what? It's
closer to reality than you may think. I attended the World Premiere of
"The Wrecking Crew" at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival and I was so moved
by it that it's hard to contain my enthusiasm for this stunning
Denny Tedesco chronicles the musical history laid down by his legendary late father Tommy, as well as Hal Blaine and Don Randi (who were present for a Q&A afterward), Carol Kaye, Al Casey, Earl Palmer, Plas Johnson, Joe Osborn, and the dozens of others who sat in on the recordings. Known informally as The Wrecking Crew, these session musicians played on so many hit songs that it could be said they had a larger role to play in the culture of the last 50 years than any other group of people in the world. You may not have heard their names, but you've heard their music.
The list of artists whose songs they backed up is amazing: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Association, Glen Campbell, The Mamas & Papas, The Monkees, Richard Harris, The 5th Dimension, Sam Cooke, Sonny and Cher, Captain and Tennille, The Righteous Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Ike and Tina Turner, Nancy Sinatra, The Carpenters, Tommy Roe, The Ronettes, Paul Revere and The Raiders, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, to name a few. The Wrecking Crew played on almost all their hit songs. To look at the list is to hear the soundtrack of your life, whether you're 15 or 85 -- you know these songs.
"The Wrecking Crew" was so lovingly made. And the fact that Tedesco got the clearances which gave him the rights to include the music in the film is a tribute to the industry's love and respect for these musicians. It goes without saying that the soundtrack is, without a doubt, the greatest of any film I've ever seen. It has to be, after all. These are the songs we've been listening to fondly for 50 years. I had the chance to sit down with Blaine and Randi after the screening and hear some of their incredible stories. For example, not only are both in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but their contribution to Grammy history is groundbreaking. Blaine played on seven Records of the Year, including an incredible run of six in a row back in the 1960s. That would be unheard of today. It's a feat that was never equaled, not before or since.
No matter what your age, if you have ever listened to music I can guarantee you "The Wrecking Crew" will touch you as few films have. To say that this film is long overdue would be an incredible understatement. It's hard to imagine anyone alive today who hasn't been affected by the people who are profiled in this documentary. There's even a good chance you wouldn't be here if not for the music of The Wrecking Crew. Ponder that.
Denny Tedesco has captured an era that will never be duplicated in
musical history with personal insights and an unconditional love that
only a child of music could accomplish.
I was fortunate enough to see it at a press screening at the NAMM convention 2011, this documentary deserves to be seen by everyone who's ever listened to the music of the 60's & 70's... go to the website and buy a shirt or something so they can finally pay the royalties and get cleared to release the DVD to the public!
The interviews and personal anecdotes bring out secrets and nuances that would've been lost to the world if not for this documentary, it will surely open the eyes of the general public about how the music industry and specifically the hit-making-machine works. These virtually unknown musicians were geniuses in their fields and contributed more to our culture than some of the "stars" they played behind!
For someone like me who's earliest recollections in life involved this music, watching this documentary was a deeply moving experience. A magical glimpse into a secret place where I was privy to the behind-the-scenes labors and commeraderie of greatness.
I saw this at a special screening last year in Palm Springs. Director Denny Tedesco was on hand for an audience Q&A following the film with Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. Also on hand at the screening were Wrecking Crew guitarist Bill Pitman and movie mogul Jerry Weintraub. This film was conceived by director Tedesco as a 30 minute documentary featuring four of the members of LA's legendary studio musicians known as "The Wrecking Crew." Dozens of key musicians made up the crew during the decade of the 1960's as they provided the music for almost all the legendary recordings coming out of the Los Angeles recording studios during that wonderful era of music history. Tedesco arranged a round table discussion of their remembrances of that time with his father, guitarist Tommy Tedesco and fellow recording sidemen and women Carol Kaye, Plas Johnson and Hal Blaine. One thing leads to another and Tedesco found so much material was being covered that he needed to expand further and include more interviews with other musicians. This led to more archival interviews to supplement that, more music to add to the soundtrack and archival footage on film and from stills. This turned into a delightfully entertaining and thoroughly informative documentary that is a must see for anyone weather they lived in that decade or not because the songs live on are the part of the soundtrack of America itself. Look for interviews by Herb Alpert, Dick Clark, Cher, Glen Campbell, Frank Zappa, Nancy Sinatra, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Jimmy Webb, Bones Howe, Snuff Garett, Larry Knechtel, Lew McCreary, Larry Levine, Don Randi, Bill Pitman, Joe Osborne, Julius Wechter, H.B. Barnum, Lou Adler, Al Casey, Brian Wilson, Earl Palmer and many more. A monumental soundtrack featuring over 100 1960's classics. Micki Stern had the difficult but enjoyable task of Music Supervisor for the film and Bob Branow was the sound re-recording mixer. Denny Tedesco directs with cinematography by Trish Govoni, Rodney Taylor and Vincent E. Toto. Claire Scanlon does a masterful job of editing all this material. Just a wonderful film and a must see. As a documentary I would give this a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it. You'll have a good time.
Greetings again from the darkness. The music business has always been a
bit of a mystery not just to the average record buyer, but even to
those within the industry. History is filled with singers, band
members, and songwriters missing out on the pot of gold due to slick
legal maneuvering from some less-than-upstanding agent, producer or
label. This documentary details the prolific recordings from a core
group of studio musicians responsible for the sounds heard as rock and
roll music exploded on the scene
their stellar performances marketed
to the public as the work of popular bands.
Lest you think this is limited to an obscure genre or style of music, the two dozen (or so) musicians known as The Wrecking Crew were responsible for the album music for such groups and performers as The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Righteous Brothers, Elvis Presley, The Mamas and the Papas, Sonny and Cher, Sam Cooke, The Byrds, and The Monkees. And we can't leave out Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" which dominated the charts for years. Director Denny Tedesco set out to make a documentary short about his father, guitarist extraordinaire Tommy Tedesco, but quickly realized the story was much bigger than just his dad.
In addition to the very talented (and funny) Tedesco, we get interviews with such talented musicians as Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Don Randi, Al Casey, Pals Johnson (The Pink Panther sax soloist), Carol Kaye, and Bill Pittman. There is also insight from producers Lou Adler and Snuff Garrett, American Bandstand's Dick Clark, songwriter Jimmy Webb, plus icon Herb Alpert. Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork explain the business rationale in having the professionals take care of the recordings, while Roger McGinnis spills the beans that other members of The Byrds (including David Crosby) were pretty miffed at the process.
The personal importance of telling this story is quite obvious in the work of the director, and is especially clear in the segments featuring his father. In addition to the popular music he was involved with, the senior Tedesco's work is heard in such well-known TV themes as Bonanza, MASH, Batman, and The Twilight Zone plus many movie scores. Archival footage is available for Q&A roundtables and some of the seminar work Tedesco did in the later stages of his career (he passed away in 1997). There is also footage of Phil Spector working in the studio, and some audio from Frank Sinatra as he works on recording, and early Brian Wilson creating the magic of Pet Sounds with the Wrecking Crew.
Glen Campbell and Leon Russell are the two big breakout performers from this group of studio musicians and both speak so highly of these unpublicized artists. Their interviews, and that of Dick Clark, highlight the confusion of timeline in the making of the film. It began making festival rounds in 2008 before running the age old issue of "musical rights" brought distribution to a screeching halt. So now, in 2015, the film is finally getting some theatre time, and with it comes the recognition and appreciation that is long overdue for the members of this very secret club few of whom seem to hold any type of grudge. They were just happy to make a living doing what they love.
This film instantly becomes one of four documentaries highly recommended for those who want to better understand the music biz. Group it with Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002), Muscle Shoals (2013), and Oscar winner Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013) to form an 8 hour education and history of popular music over the past three generations.
**NOTE: Kent Hartman released a book entitled "The Wrecking Crew" that provides additional detail; however, it is not affiliated with Denny Tedesco's film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Secrecy, deception, lies, conspiracies, aliases, big money, celebrity
careers and reputations constantly on the line.....
With plot elements such as these built in, the story of The Wrecking Crew had the potential to be Oliver Stone-d to the realm of the Twilight Zone by veering off into absurd theories. As a documentary, it also had the potential to bore viewers into unconsciousness with excessive facts and figures. Or, thankfully, it had the potential to be what it is: ninety-five thoroughly enjoyable minutes of getting acquainted with people you thought you knew, but were actually others who you may have never heard of.
Confused? That is exactly what, for decades, the music industry executives and most of their star performers wanted you to be. We were intentionally misled into accepting that all credit for what we listened to and purchased in the form of vinyl discs with holes in the center was entirely the work of those whose names appeared on the record labels. Unless you moved in certain circles or had access to the right sources, you had no idea how far from the truth you were.
In the late 1950's rock and roll music caught on and consumer tastes changed. With money to be made, record labels sought to crank out the greatest amount of product for the least amount of investment. That meant using musicians who could deliver quality recordings within a minimum of studio time.
Most of the established studio musicians either could not or would not work for rock and roll sessions. This opened the door for the new breed of studio players who began arriving in Los Angeles around that time. Being less formal and eager to play anything (even rock and roll!), the status quo was convinced that these new people were destined to wreck the music business. The Wrecking Crew name stuck, and so did the new musicians.
From the late '50's into the 70's, Wrecking Crew personnel provided instrumental tracks for just about every hit song that was recorded in L.A. The list of Wrecking Crew-driven hits and number ones on the charts is huge! And with each gold record, their individual and collective reputations soared higher and higher.
They were the machine that all but guaranteed success for recording artists, and the producers of rock/pop stars knew that. Wrecking Crew members got the majority of calls for studio sessions, not only for records, but also for television and movie soundtracks and commercial jingles. They even recorded instrumental songs of their own (under fictitious names) that charted, and bands were later recruited to do these tunes at live shows and accept credit for the Wrecking Crew's work.
Fast forward to the late 1990's. Tommy Tedesco, an extraordinary guitarist who had been one of those upstart musicians, was diagnosed with cancer. Denny Tedesco, his son whose own skills lay in the film industry, embarked on a mission to accurately document the astounding, yet unsung, contributions that his father and coworkers made in supplying the "soundtrack of our lives." It was a quest that took years to complete.
The Wrecking Crew was never an organized band; they were individuals who trickled into the L.A. music studios between the late '50's and mid 60's. The number of those who should be counted as Crew members has been estimated at up to two dozen. They covered the typical instruments heard on rock records: guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, horns, and other percussion. Many played multiple instruments. While the Wrecking Crew alumni identified in the film may be mostly unknown to the general public, you might recognize some names. Besides Tommy Tedesco, they include: Carol Kaye, Joe Osborn, Julius Wechter, Leon Russell, Billy Strange, Glen Campbell, Earl Palmer, Al Casey, Plas Johnson, Steve Douglas, Don Randi, Larry Knechtel, Don Peake, Bill Pitman, and Hal Blaine.
Playing music was how they earned a living, while those they backed frequently became stars and household names. They often worked long shifts and odd hours, mostly for scale. Yet, they were the right people, at the right place, at the right time. We are the beneficiaries of their skill, talent, intuition, creativity, and camaraderie, plus a love and passion for what they were doing.
I am not going to tell you the whole story, I am going to urge you to see this film. Denny Tedesco has assembled a phenomenal tribute to his late father and the Wrecking Crew. Told through archival footage, still photos, interviews, and (of course) the music itself, the film has just enough historical data, just enough humor, and just enough pathos. As good as it is, the forthcoming DVD with added outtakes should be that much better.
After viewing this film, you will likely find yourself listening to these songs in a way you never have before. Denny Tedesco has succeeded in preserving important details in the history of modern American popular music with this wonderfully entertaining film.
If you are an aficionado of music between the 50s and late 80s early
90s you will find this a fascinating documentary. It is the story of
studio musicians who did most of the playing for the recordings of some
of the great groups of this time period. The film is lovingly put
together by Denny Tedesco and includes a particular focus on Tommy
Tedesco who is his father and who recently died after having
participated in interviews for this film with many other of these great
musicians. You probably did not know that just about all the music of
Beach Boys was not recorded by them but was played for the records by
the musicians affectionately self named " The Wrecking Crew " The film
also features Carol Bass who is obviously a great guitar player and is
only really known by people in the music business as these musicians
did not get any recognition on the albums they recorded. They were
financially well paid during this time and have no regrets for their
anonymity. There are film clips from many recording sessions including
one with Frank Sinatra. Apparently potential distributors have been
skeptical that the producer would be able to get the rights to include
all the great music that is in this film but he did it as people
recognized the historic value of this documentary. The soundtrack is
unbelievable and is a concert in to itself and will make a great CD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Have to agree with the other commenter; this is really a fantastic
movie. It's funny, I hadn't even heard of it, and then a few weeks back
I was listening to a radio show called Acoustic Cafe and they had Glen
Campbell as a guest. Well, I'd loved Glen Campbell as a child, and he
mentioned this movie. Then fortunately the Idaho International Film
Festival had it.
I grew up during the sixties so I knew and loved all these songs (including the Monkees) and I'd had no idea they were all played by the same people and that they weren't the people on the records.
My former husband told me early on that he'd been trained by Carol Kaye and I went who? so I was really happy to see so much emphasis placed on her.
Even if you didn't grow up with the music, you're bound to recognize
nearly all of it. And the film is done well enough that you should
enjoy it even if the subject matter doesn't fascinate you right off the
I first saw this film as a preview in Alameda when the director was showing it in private screenings to raise the money to pay the royalties. There are a lot of very famous, well-known songs and he was determined to see everyone got paid. After all, it's about a group of studio musicians who worked for a living.
Just saw it again, and it wears extremely well. It's a documentary, and there's naturally there's some nostalgia, but mostly it's a celebration that mirrors the light-hearted spirit of one of the main subjects, the director's father, Tommy Tedesco.
Like I said up front, if you grew up in the 60's or are a musician, it's a must see. For me it's a 9, but I lowered the rating a point as I realize not everyone is going to be as fascinated by the subject matter as I am.
If you have ever heard "Happy Together" by the Turtles, The Byrds "Mr.
Tambourine Man", "Day Dream Believer" song by the Monkees, or "Close to
You" by the Carpenters, you have heard the group of studio musicians
called "The Wrecking Crew." They were regular contributors to hit songs
in Los Angeles from about 1958 to 1965. The composition of the Crew
varied, but if you lived in Los Angeles and needed bass, drums, guitar,
horns or other instruments for your recording, you called on the in The
According to the film, the musicians got the name "Wrecking Crew" from jazz musicians who felt they were "wrecking" music with their rock and pop stylings. Whatever they case, this group of musicians were called if you wanted to record a hit song.
The film features interviews with the players, old footage of them performing together and interviews with musical luminaries such as Cher and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson used The Crew for most of the backing tracks on the seminal album, "Pet Sounds." The crew could read musical scales, take direction, and write parts for the songs if needed. They were flexible and served the client first even if they talked about them behind their back after the session and on camera during the film. And as the film implies, the Crew was responsible for more than one song becoming a hit.
The footage and interviews in the film proves how important these musicians were to popular music of the late 50s and early 60s. In the 60s, bands such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Doors, and so forth, left the Wrecking Crew with fewer jobs, for they had the talent to play their own instruments. Some of the musicians from the Crew, notably father of the director, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, got jobs playing for film soundtracks other records after the studio jobs dried up. Other members went on to record their own records, some even becoming big stars on their own such as Leon Russell and Glen Campbell. Yes, those stars were part of the Crew.
The film shares a unique time of music and a unique set of musicians with us. Watching the film gives us a view of the inner workings of one of the greatest groups of studio musicians in the history of popular music. And it entertains us all the way.
The set and filming is nothing scream and shout about, but the music leaves us with Good Vibrations.
Rating: Pay Full Price.
People who play or like music will enjoy by this film.
Peace, Tex Shelters
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story of the Wrecking Crew is fascinating, but it's also one that
some fans of 1960s music MIGHT not want to see. It's not that the film
is bad (it's terrific) but because you learn through the course of the
documentary that so many groups you loved at the time really didn't
exist...at least not like you thought. So, when groups like The Byrds,
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and
many others traveled the country doing concerts, the actual musicians
on their albums were session musicians dubbed 'the Wrecking Crew'! So,
when Alpert made a great tune that resulted in instant fame, he needed
to find folks willing to travel as his band...and the session musicians
didn't want to go because they were so good that they were just too
busy working and making lots of money to go on the road!! I thought
this was all very interesting though I thought the only groups like
these were The Monkees, The Partridge Family and some of the Phil
Spector bands. But, this film makes it sound like just about EVERYONE
made albums this way--and not just rock, but pop, country and 'old
people' tunes of the day!
For me, I didn't mind learning the truth. And, I really loved seeing a lot of the 60s stars as they look today--and the film is a huge star-studded documentary. You'll see the likes of Brian Wilson (who looks much better than he used to since he cleaned up and got properly medicated), Herb Alpert, Cher, Glen Campbell (who was odd because he started as one of these session musicians and later became a top star), Nancy Sinatra and many others appear--and sing the praises of these studio musicians. And, most importantly, you get to not only hear about the musicians...but finally see them! A treat for any child of the 60s but younger whippersnappers might not appreciate it. But being a 50-something guy, I don't care what the young folks think...I just loved watching this film.
By the way, if you do watch a few things to look for: how much Gary Lewis looks like his father (Jerry), how much money some of these studio musicians blew through, some of the sites in Hollywood that are very famous but which most of us have never seen (such as the Capital Records building), a lady musician who was just 'one of the guys', the "Gong Show" clip, the fact that this was a Kickstarter film and much more...
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