A movie review of “The Wrecking Crew”: The story of the legendary studio musicians behind many of the hits of the 1960s through the early 1970s has taken decades to reach the screen, but it has been worth the wait.
To Beach Boys guru Brian Wilson, “they were the ones with all the spirit and all the know-how.” To Nancy Sinatra, they were “unsung heroes”; to Herb Alpert, “an established groove machine”; and to songwriter Jimmy Webb, simply “stone-cold rock ’n’ roll professionals.”
If the history of rock music means anything to you, you know the individuals in question could only be the Wrecking Crew, a legendary group of Los Angeles-based studio musicians. Though their story has taken decades to reach the screen, it has been worth the wait.
Providing backup on hundreds if not thousands of songs, the Wrecking Crew was responsible for the musical DNA of so many of the anthems that ruled the airwaves from the 1960s through the early 1970s that it makes your head spin.
‘The Wrecking Crew,’ a documentary directed by Denny Tedesco. 101 minutes. Rated PG for language, thematic elements and smoking images. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
The Los Angeles Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
That list includes the Phil Spector-produced “Be My Baby,” the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” If you listened to the radio during that period, these musicians created your world.
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Which is one reason why “The Wrecking Crew” has taken so long to appear. A version of it played extensively at film festivals in 2008, but for it to be shown in commercial movie theaters, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of licensing fees had to be paid for the use of those hit songs.
Until that money could be raised (via donations and a Kickstarter campaign, as it turned out), this movie could not be seen.
The Wrecking Crew was a fluid group — no one seems to know exactly how many people were considered members (20 is a rough guess), but key among them was Tommy Tedesco, aka “The King of L.A. Session Guitarists.”
Tedesco’s son, director Denny Tedesco, made putting this film together a yearslong labor of love.
Something like a “Twenty Feet From Stardom” for session musicians, “The Wrecking Crew” contains its share of surprises, including that many of these individuals came from a jazz background and didn’t necessarily care for rock, at least at first.
Though Wrecking Crew alumni Glen Campbell and Leon Russell went on to major solo careers, most were more than content with musical lives outside the spotlight. Some of the film’s best moments are brief biographical segments on key members.
Perhaps the most intriguing member was its only female, nonpareil bassist Carol Kaye, who made more money than the president in her best years and demonstrates how she souped up the bass line for Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.”