Rock on Film
Movie Review: The Wrecking Crew
Documentary Film Directed by Denny Tedesco
Now Playing: Limited Film Festivals and special engagements
Okay, I know this strays off the indie path a bit, but that’s what makes this indie film about some of the most popular pop music (isn’t that redundant?) ever so significant. Before synthesizers, drum machines and Pro Tools there was analog recording equipment and a group of Los Angeles session musicians, who later came to be known as The Wrecking Crew. On any given day they played for the Beach Boys or the Mamas and the Papas or were the bricks in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound-they played anything and everything. Most were jazz players with serious chops, but played studio dates to pay the bills. If you don’t know the names Tommy Tedesco (guitar), Hal Blaine (drums), Carol Kaye (bass), Earl Palmer (drums) Don Randi (piano) or Joe Osborne (bass) to name a few, shame on you, but you’re not alone (homework assignment: Google all their names), but if you’re reading this, I know you’ve heard their music. The first three are quite possibly-no probably-the most recorded in history on their respective instruments, with Palmer a close second to Blaine. Some became names you do know: Glen Campbell, Leon Russell.
If you consider yourself any kind of music historian you MUST SEE this movie. Denny Tedesco, son of the late, legendary session guitarist, Tommy Tedesco spent 12 years on this project interviewing and putting together the story of L.A’s most in-demand studio players from the early rock and pop era, in the days long before you would see musician credits on the album listed track-by-track. (Thank you Q.) Included in the interviews are Herb Alpert, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell, and Joe Saraceno. It features a round-table discussion with Kaye, Tedesco, Blaine, and Plas Johnson. You would think in an industry with ego’s as big as the Capitol Records building there might be some chest beating going on, but what amazes me is how much everyone attributes each other’s contributions to their collective success. Denny Tedesco skillfully weaves together the interviews, songs, pictures, and home movies into a documentary with a rare quality-you never want to end. I doubt you’ll ever see this film’s soundtrack for sale. Over 200 songs or partial songs were used-a feat, I’m sure, that kept Tedesco’s legal team on the payroll for quite a while. Even a listing of the songs on the film’s website is only a fraction of what they actually recorded.
What makes this film a must-see is that it’s not about the music itself, it’s about the musicians and how they approached the process. More importantly it finally begins to give credit where it’s due. Come on, did you really think Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded their own stuff? No-it was the invisible but audible musicians of the Wrecking Crew.
The film has limited screenings mostly at regional film festivals, but if one is within a four hour drive I highly recommend the trip. Some of the Crew’s musicians frequently attend and hold Q&A sessions after the show. Upcoming is a one-night screening at the Grammy Museum on February 12, 2009 followed by the Glasgow (Feb 12-22) Sedona (Feb 24-Mar 1) and Spokane International (Feb 15) Film Festivals