The Wrecking Crew
Good morning, y’all. Modern science has brought me back from near death once again. I can even climb the steps in the Rec room to the second floor without collapsing in a ball of convulsing coughing. I don’t know who discovered antibiotics, but his time on Earth was well spent. I hope his or her heirs are still being rewarded by their granddaddy’s discovery. I’m sure willing to kick in a dime a dose.
Speaking of folks who did amazing work and remain in obscurity, I had the occasion to watch a movie for date night that would have slipped by me entirely. The movie was a documentary called, “The Wrecking Crew”, which was the name given to a tight knit group of studio musicians back in the ’60’s and ’70’s. I had no idea about the importance in modern day music these studio musicians played. To further show my ignorance, the only one of the musicians that I can truly say I had heard of before was Glen Campbell, and then only because he became famous on his own. I had read that Campbell was a studio musician and had played with the Beach Boys. I had no idea that the Beach Boys had found Glen Campbell in a studio while they were making their iconic album, “Pet Sounds”.
I came by the movie in an unusual way. Because I’ve been down with the creeping crud this week, I was unable to peruse the $2.99 movie bin at the Walmart. I was thinking I would have to go to my library of classic Betamax tapes for a date night selection. Lo and behold, my band mate from the TackyOnes, Axel Rhodes, came by to see if I was going to be available for band practice this week. I coughed out a response in the negative, and told him, “maybe next week”. Axel then went home and brought me back his copy of, ‘The Wrecking Crew”, to “keep my head in the game”. There is one universal truth about musicians, if you’re still playing, you’re still dreaming the dream. Axel thought that seeing a documentary about folks who lived the dream, but didn’t become household names, would help me keep the spark alive. That Axel, better than Dr. Phil and not nearly as expensive.
‘The Wrecking Crew” was directed by Danny Tedesco, son of Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, as a tribute to his dad and the other players who never received their just due in the music world. To clarify that statement, most of us think that the bands we see on the stage are playing all of the instruments in the song. During the ’60’s, this was hardly true at all. Even the Beach Boys required the services of trained musicians to arrive at the quality of sound required by the public. One of the conflicts shown in the movie was when Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had to let his band mates know that studio musicians would be playing on the albums. The music that Brian Wilson wanted to produce was at a level far above his band mates capabilities, enter the Wrecking Crew.
There are a couple of really funny insights shown in the movie. Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees relates how he didn’t even know how to play an instrument when picked for the group. A ghost musician was his only hope until he could learn to play the drums well enough to fake it while on tour. It was also funny that the other Monkees were indignant that their skills were not thought to be sufficient to do the recordings.
It was fascinating to learn about Carol Kaye, the Fender Bass player who is credited with playing on over 10,000 songs. She laid down the bass lines to “And The Beat Goes On” and “These Boots Are Made For Walking“. Where would those songs have been without Carol Kaye’s iconic bass lines? Certainly not the money makers they were.
Speaking of money, that was the true impetus behind producers using the Wrecking Crew as opposed to the performing artists. The Wrecking Crew could be ready to record a new tune in as little as an hour, and then generally have a finished take in two or three tries. At one point it was rumored that the Wrecking Crew was turning out an album a day. A far cry from the “six months in the studio” so often associated with new releases.
Mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money, and fortunately some of it stuck on the musicians. While not “rock star” wealthy, most of the Wrecking Crew had very successful careers. They lived the dream, although a little more quietly than their talent would portend.