a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, The Wrecking Crew (2008) starring members of the famous group of LA session musicians of the same name.
Per IMDb: “A celebration of the musical work of a group of session musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew”, a band that provided back-up instrumentals to such legendary recording artists as Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and Bing Crosby.”
Tommy Tedesco is a name you’ve probably never heard unless you’re one to read the inner sleeve of vinyl records from the late sixties, on. Even then, the name may have not been seen or known. But, you’d know him with your ears, even if you’re not born of that time; I wasn’t born until 1970. You can listen to theme songs for Bonanza, Green Acres or Batman (just to name a few) and instantly say, “well, yeah, I know that.”
Tedesco was a guitarist that was part of a group of session musicians in Los Angeles that were called “The Wrecking Crew” or sometimes they were known as “the Clique Band” or “First Call Band” or even “Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra.” It wasn’t a dedicated lineup, it was a group or pool of musicians that producers could pull from to piece together for a session. This group also included names like Glen Campbell (yes, Mr. Rhinestone Cowboy, himself) and Bill Pitman, the world-famous bassists Carol Kaye and Ray Pohlman, drummers Hal Blaine and Joe Porcaro (whose three sons would go on to form the band Toto, also from studio musicians), pianists Leon Russell and Mac Rebennack (also known as Dr. John), horn players like Plas Johnson and Steve Douglas and countless more. That list isn’t even close to complete.
What did these players play? Well, a very truncated list would include: “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home),” “Surf City,” “I Get Around,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “California Dreamin’,” “I Got You Babe,” “Good Vibrations,” “Monday Monday,” “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “The Beat Goes On,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Boxer,” “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Love Will Keep Us Together.” But, that’s not all, Plas Johnson is the sax player in the Pink Panther Theme, Carol Kaye plays in so many pieces that your head would spin to know what they were.
As I said, there were little credits on the albums, usually. That was for several reasons, one it would confuse the snot out of the general public seeing that many credits on so many different artists’ albums. On top of that, the musicians that were actually in these bands (like Beach Boys, Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys) didn’t want the public to know they weren’t actually playing on the records. So, they’d just not put who played what, band or not, on the credits. These people were also the musicians for The Monkees. Soon, the advent of true self-contained bands who really did play their own instruments led to the phasing out of the Wrecking Crew and other studio session musicians. When studio musicians were or are needed in the mid-to-late 70s and so on, they had younger, hipper, more rock and roll or pop-infused musicians to take their place.
The Wrecking Crew, many of which are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, are and will forever be ingrained in the intricate history of popular music. Nothing can or will ever change that. Many have passed on, including Tommy Tedesco. Remember him? The reason I brought him up was because his son, Denny, is the producer and director of this documentary called, The Wrecking Crew.
Denny follows the careers and history of many of the studio musicians in this little society. He talks of the rise and fall, the good times, the sessions, the artists they’ve played with and plenty of other aspects of the group. Very interesting, especially when you find out the things they played on and how much what we know of 50s and 60s music is really their doing.
Tommy went on to do a lot with television and film as well. Titles like: The French Connection, The Godfather, Jaws, The Deer Hunter, Columbo, The Deep, Dallas, Caddyshack, Batman, Cocoon, Cheers, Dirty Dancing, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Starsky & Hutch and his guitar is what you hear playing in the intro of what I have said is my #1 television show of all time, M*A*S*H. He passed away in 1997 at the age of 65.
I thought the film was highly entertaining and I’m a big fan of “behind the scenes” documentaries. Also, being a musician, I love finding who played on what for albums and popular songs. One of the highlights when I research the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums is who played on what. I have a better understanding of who those people are, now. I really enjoyed watching this. There is no Rotten Tomatoes rating but IMDb has it at 7.7 stars out of 10. It’s available on Netflix, which is where I watched it. I rate it 4.5 out of 5. Have you seen it? What did you think? What would you like to read/hear me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“”You leave the house at seven o’clock in the morning, and you’re at Universal at nine till noon; now you’re at Capitol Records at one, you just got time to get there, then you got a jingle at four, then we’re on a date with somebody at eight, then the Beach Boys at midnight, and you do that five days a week … jeez, man, you get burned out.” – Bill Pitman, guitarist