The Wrecking Crew (2015)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 15, 2015 @

And the beat goes on.

One of the latest in an auspicious line of recent documentaries about music that are informative and extraordinary is The Wrecking Crew.

The Wrecking Crew is kind of a home movie - not cinematically accomplished - but it is fascinating. It is an infectious tribute to the studio musicians of the 1960s and 1970s - up to 30 or so - who made so much of the music we know and love.

They were more than just back-up musicians. The members of The Wrecking Crew were creative. Often they weren't even credited - they remained anonymous. While The Beach Boys were on tour, Brian Wilson was in a studio working with the Crew on Pet Sounds. Dennis Wilson played drums on tour, but how much did he play on the records?

The Association played before crowds, but who did the music on records? The members of The Wrecking Crew, that's who. Who came up with the crucial bass on Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On?" It was a no-nonsense, creative, blonde bassist named Carol Kaye. She was a dynamo on The Wrecking Crew.

Composer Jimmy Webb said, "They were the stone cold rock and roll professionals." Glen Campbell said that they were "the tightest rhythm section I think I ever played with." [Campbell started as a studio musician before breaking into fame as a singer, which at the time surprised members of The Wrecking Crew.]

Their achievements were known to some insiders, but the general public was mostly oblivious to their creative contributions. The industry was focused on making money. They didn't care who got credit.

The members of The Wrecking Crew knew they would just be replaced if they didn't go along, so they played their music and got their salaries. They didn't have immediate security; they had to scramble from job to job. Often several a day. But they did have an influence. They had talent.

They brought a new sensibility which the Old Guard feared and tried to dismiss. But the wrecking rock and roll made its way.

Eventually some members got recognition for their abilities and were sought after by record producers. A few even got admittance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Denny Tedesco, producer and director of the film The Wrecking Crew, made the film to honor his late father, The Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and his underrated breed of fellow musicians.

Tedesco started the project while his father still was alive. Tommy died in 1997 of cancer. But it's taken years to acquire the rights to the different songs. Finally the film is accessible.

Tedesco is able to draw knowledge from formidable members of the Crew: from his dad to saxophonist Plas Johnson to the irrepressible Carol Kaye, et al. Drummer Hal Blaine talks about his fall from the heights of wealth, through divorce, to losing his 23 room house and working in a menial job. But there is a lasting, familial bond between members of The Wrecking Crew.

Recently a film about Brian Wilson - Love & Mercy - was released. Its best sequence may be when Brian Wilson works with The Wrecking Crew on Pet Sounds. The pulse and soul of creativity are captured in that scene.

The Wrecking Crew gives a whole movie to that essence of creativity.

The Wrecking Crew allegedly got its name because they were accused of wrecking the studio system.

And, as the documentary shows, they did a nifty job.

© 2000-2024 Tony Macklin