The Wrecking Crew
by George Wolf
Giving credit where it’s due is a fine idea – no matter how long it takes. After years of legal delays, The Wrecking Crew arrives as the latest documentary to give unsung musicians a well deserved spotlight.
The film premiered on the festival circuit in 2008, but a wider release became hostage to publishing disputes over the music, which amounts to a non-stop hit parade from the 60s and 70s. During that time, a group of select L.A. session musicians played on countless songs -often uncredited. The record may have said Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, the Righteous Brothers, or even the Beach Boys, but the session band behind them all was unknown except to music biz insiders, which dubbed the group the “Wrecking Crew.”
The Crew’s lead guitarist was Tommy Tedesco, and the film is directed by his son Denny as a bonafide labor of love. What 2002’s Standing in the Shadows of Motown did for the Funk Brothers – namely, pull the curtain back on their immense contributions- Denny Tedesco wants to do for his father’s band.
We not only come to appreciate the group’s technical abilities, but glimpse the stylish additions they contributed during the record sessions -such as the bass line to “I Got You Babe” or the opening notes of “Wichita Lineman” – that often turned average into unforgettable.
Despite some uneven production values, Tedesco shows fine instincts for showcasing both musicianship and biography. We get to know his father, and several other members of the Crew, including bassist Carol Kaye. A trailblazer with immense talent and a winning personality, Kaye herself would be a fine choice for Tedesco’s next documentary.
There are also some great anecdotes from an array of famous faces…with a twist. The interviews are mostly years old, and seeing a vibrant Dick Clark, or Cher from three faces ago sometimes gives the film a musty air. But then, when a much younger Glen Campbell (himself a Wrecking Crew member before going solo) laughingly admits he can’t remember certain details of a story, there’s some unexpected poignancy to the foreshadowing of his current battle with Alzheimer’s.
Beyond all the feels, The Wrecking Crew comes off as a fun day at school, While not as polished or as universally entertaining as Standing in the Shadows of Motown or Twenty Feet from Stardom, it is just as much of a must see for fans of music history.