never had a hard and fast membership, but their big sound was immediately
recognizable, especially for the record producers who kept them constantly gigging
in the Los Angeles studio scene throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s. If you
played a number of studio sessions with Earl Palmer, Plas Johnson, Al Casey,
Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Don Randi, and Tommy Tedesco then you were probably a
member—and you could surely lay down a killer groove. Filmmaker Denny Tedesco
pays tribute to his guitarist father and all his friends in the hugely
entertaining documentary, The Wrecking
which opens this Friday in New York.
Wrecking Crew played with just about everyone, including the Beach Boys, the
Byrds, the Monkees, Nat King Cole, Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra, Nancy
Sinatra, Herb Alpert, and the Chipmunks. They were Phil Spector’s Wall of
Sound. They were largely unknown to the record buying public, but at least one Wrecking
Crew veteran made good as a solo act: Glen Campbell. Naturally, whenever
Campbell returned to the studio, he made sure his old pals were the ones
backing him. His road band always resented it, yet he was really being true to
his roots. They powered six consecutive Record of the Year Grammy winners, but
they rarely saw their names on record jackets. In many cases, they were the
recording industry’s equivalent of a ghost writer. Still, it was a pretty good
living while it lasted.
obvious reasons, the musical licensing was an absolute nightmare that has
delayed the film’s release for years. It is a truly decades-in-the-making
project that Tommy Tedesco (1930-1997) sadly never lived to see completed. Yet,
the film is better thought of as an upbeat celebration of the musicians and
their music than a bittersweet elegy. In fact, it is often wildly funny. These
cats (and bassist Carol Kaye) can tell a good story, particularly the wickedly
droll Blaine, who shows a drummer’s perfect sense of timing with one zinger
is nostalgia in Tedesco’s doc, but there is an even greater sense of camaraderie.
It is also gratifying to see these unsung heroes of pop music finally getting
their due. Hard core jazz record collectors will especially enjoy hearing from
Don Randi (who recorded some excellent sessions for Pacific Jazz) and Plas
Johnson, who might be the most widely heard tenor saxophonist in the world.
Seriously, you know that “Pink Panther Theme?” That was him.
Crew will bring to mind films
like Standing in the Shadow of Motown
and Muscle Shoals, which also paid
tribute to some of the under-appreciated artists who helped make so many beloved
hit records. They are all very good films, but Wrecking Crew is far more fun. Worth the wait, it delivers a lot of
laughter and generous helpings of dearly licensed grooviness. It is just a
blast from start to finish—and audiences will want to hang through the credits
because there is a stinger worth sticking around for. Highly recommended for
anyone who has ever listened to music recorded in the latter half of the
Twentieth Century, The Wrecking Crew opens
this Friday (3/13) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Documentary, Don Randi, Glen Campbell, Plas Johnson, Wrecking Crew