This is the story of the back up musicians who crafted some of the greatest hits of the 60s and early 70s. They were known by the film’s title, The Wrecking Crew. It is a documentary tenderly produced and directed by Denny Tedesco, son of legendary late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco.
For six years in a row, the Grammy for “Record of the Year” went to Wrecking Crew recordings. They provided the backbeat and the melody that drove many of the number one hits for Nat “King” Cole, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, The Monkeys, the Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys, among many others. These dedicated studio musos brought the flair and application that made the American “west coast sound” a dominant cultural force around the world. We are talk about tunes such as “Be My Baby”, “California Girls”, “Strangers in the Night”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'”, “Up, Up and Away”, “Viva Las Vegas” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”.
Tommy Tedesco had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1995 and his son wanted to get as much as possible on film or tape before his father passed away. Denny spent several years interviewing producers, engineers and musicians to reveal the warmth and humour that allowed their collective talents to give a unique signature to recordings that are now part of the soundtrack of our lives. The film includes interviews with Brian Wilson, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Herb Alpert, Glen Campbell and Micky Dolenz, as well as Crew members. For quite some time the cost of licensing the hit songs for the movie stopped it in its tracks. That is when Denny looked at crowd funding and the campaign for The Wrecking Crew became one of the biggest in Kickstarter (which, for those not in the know, is a crowd funding platform) history.
From the outset you can see this is a labour of love. It is like we are flies on the wall of what went down. Arguably the best parts of the film are when four members of The Wrecking Crew – namely Tommy Tedesco, drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye (the only woman in the group) and saxophonist Plas Johnson – get together for a round table chat. They tell tall tales about the good old days.
Carol Kaye shows us she has lost none of her mojo when she plucks away at her instrument of choice and makes it sing, if you pardon the pun. It felt like it was a true privilege to be listening in. At least one member of The Wrecking Crew saw wealth as a result of their success, but that didn’t stay with him and we learn why. Most of all, though, you get the feeling they loved the music and the ride they were on.
It is a doco with real heart and soul and it paints a very favourable picture of this time in their lives. We’re all the richer for Denny Tedesco’s 20 year odyssey. As to the music they helped create – WOW!
Rated PG, The Wrecking Crew scores a 7½ out of 10.
Director: Danny Tedesco
Release Date: 1 October 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television