One of the greatest things that has happened with the rise of documentary feature films as well as their release to DVD is getting credit to people who deserved it but never got it. The movie IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN let us know that a group of musicians who came to be known as the Funk Brothers performed all the music behind the biggest hits from Motown. MUSCLE SHOALS let us know about the history of those who performed at that now famous recording studio. Now we have another movie to add to that collection of films about music from our past. THE WRECKING CREW tells the story of the studio musicians who played on nearly everything to come out of California from the late 50s through the early 80s.
You say you never heard of The Wrecking Crew? They may not have been an actual band but this group of 15-30 musicians have filled your ears whether you know it or not. Let me prove it. Have you heard any of the following songs? “California Dreaming”, “Be My Baby”, “California Girls”, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, “Viva Las Vegas”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Windy”, “Wichita Lineman”, “These Boots Were Made For Walking”, “Surfer’s Stomp”, “Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves”, “Love Will Keep Us Together”, “Strangers in the Night”, “Up, Up and Away”, “A Taste of Honey” or “The Beat Goes On”. How about the theme songs to TV series like Batman, Green Acres, Hawaii Five O or MASH? If you’ve heard one of these songs then you’ve heard The Wrecking Crew.
THE WRECKING CREW is a documentary made by Denny Tedesco, the son of Tommy Tedesco one of the driving forces behind the studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. The musicians got the moniker when they arrived on the scene in California. Wearing jeans and T-shirts as they entered the studio the old guard musicians said that they would wreck the music business, thus the name. The prophecy didn’t stick because most continued playing for the next 40-50 years.
Going back to the beginning Tedesco (Denny) looks at the early arrival of these musicians and how they worked in the business. Each was a skilled musician eager to work and able to read music at a glance. Where bands would form and try to learn the music being written for them by the producers who gathered them together, the Wrecking Crew could pump out hit after hit in no time flat. A great example in the movie is when Roger McGuin of the Byrds talks about how it took 3 hours to record “Mr. Tambourine Man” with the crew while it took 70 to record “Turn, Turn, Turn” with the actual band. The crew new how to record in the studio and that was what made them so valuable to producers and record companies.
On the plus side this meant that they were constantly in need, especially during the early sixties as rock and roll began to take over the airwaves. On the down side it meant that they rarely if ever received credit for the work that they did. Their names didn’t appear on the credits of nearly every album they ever played on. All of that has begun to change as historians and fans try to remedy that situation. Inductions into the rock and roll hall of fame have come as well as tons of recognition stemming from the release of this film.
Interviews with a number of those who were a part of this now famous group fill most of the movie along with pictures taken back when they were the biggest thing around even if it was behind the scenes. Sadly a number have passed since the making of the film. It’s great to know though that their legacy and memories have been captured for us to enjoy for years to come.
The entire time I was watching this film all I could do was marvel at all of them. I was stunned at their abilities, I was shocked that they never got the credit they deserved and I was filled with an abundance of joy while listening to some of the music that I grew up with and enjoyed time and time again, year after year. That’s the true lasting legacy of The Wrecking Crew, that the work that they did, the music that they created, will be here for centuries to come. It’s a lasting tribute that shows they were worth much more than the late recognition they finally received.
I can’t recommend this movie strongly enough, especially if you grew up in the 60s and 70s or if you love music. I’ve watched it twice already. And while there are probably more marketable and popular movies being released this week this is the one I would tell you to go out and buy, to watch over and over again. A great movie with great music that will put a smile on your face as each minute passes.