For many of us, groups such as The Beatles, Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Rolling Stones, Monkees, The Association, Eagles and Byrds, created the soundtracks of our lives. Each had a string of mega hits that will never leave us.
Let me separate the eight hit machines in the above list into two groups, and then ask you a question.
Group A – The Beach Boys, Monkees, The Association, and Byrds
Group B -The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eagles and CSNY
Find a reason for the grouping? The answer is wonderfully revealed in The Wrecking Crew, a fascinating documentary for every rock ‘n’ roller.
The subtle, yet seismic answer: the musicians that played on the hit recordings in Group A were all studio musicians. Oh sure, you probably saw some of them play instruments while they were on tour, but the music we grew up listening to came from session musicians. It was not until Group B that they brought a new dimension to the music; they played their own instruments on the recordings.
Even more interesting was that a very small group of studio musicians, between a dozen or two, were the same people who played on virtually every hit record that came out of California in the 1960s.
This tight band of players became known as the “Wrecking Crew.” They played on thousands of recordings, but were rarely listed on the album covers. They did not seem to care. They were making a fabulous living and working nonstop. This documentary is their story.
When a producer had a song in the ’60s, from Sinatra to Glen Campbell (a former “Wrecking Crew” member), Jan & Dean, Sonny and Cher, Mamas and Papas, the Phil Spector stable, Ricky Nelson, TV commercials, it was time to book the “Wrecking Crew.” Some of the names wafted to the fringe of public consciousness, drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, saxophonist Plas Johnson, bass player Carol Kaye; but for the most part, the crew played on and on and on in obscurity.
And they loved it. Hit after hit rolled off the instruments of the “Wrecking Crew.”
They traveled from one recording studio to another on a nonstop treadmill. The players were so busy they hardly had time to listen to or appreciate their work. Day after day, morning till night, song after song, group after group, and singer after singer, it was an endless blur of rock ‘n’ roll. The whirlwind lasted about 10 years, tapering off when groups began to play their own material in the studios.
If these are the songs of your life, you will love the music, the vintage film clips and the stories behind the music. If you are a younger rock ‘n’ roller, the two hours with members of the “Wrecking Crew” are a valuable history lesson. Don’t miss their class.
— Bob Carson
Saturday, March 28, 9:25 p.m.; Sunday, March 29, 4:25 p.m. USA, 98 minutes