It’s no secret that the Monkees were not playing their instruments on their albums during the 1960s. But it might surprise you to learn that neither were the Beach Boys, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Association and a slew of other influential acts that were recording in California during those days.
So who were those nameless, faceless musicians creating the soundtrack of a generation? The Wrecking Crew, an eye-opening documentary about session musicians living and working in Los Angeles during that time sheds a light on these players who had a hand in developing some of pop music’s most enduring sounds.
The film is directed by Denny Tedesco, the son of Tommy Tedesco, one of the master session guitar players during that time who died in 1997. When Denny learned of his father’s cancer diagnosis, he set out to record conversations with his father and his father’s friends so that the memories of these musicians would be preserved. During the film, we hear of how these players churned out hit records with almost factory-like precision — they were so good that they could easily record an album a day. Among the players were Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, sax player Plas Johnson (that’s him playing the Pink Panther theme) and a future star in his own right, Glen Campbell.
In addition to the acts listed above, the Wrecking Crew also provided the music for vocal groups such as Sonny and Cher, Jan and Dean, Nancy Sinatra, the Mamas and the Papas and many, many more. Members of those groups were all too happy to participate in the documentary, gushing at times about the enormous talent that these musicians possessed. And there are also the requisite stories about how, for example, Tommy Tedesco played a solo or two that was so good and complex that there was no way that the real guitarist in the band could replicate it live.
Of everything at the Video Festival this year, this film is probably my favorite. For you students of rock history, this is required viewing.
The Wrecking Crew screens Friday at 8:30 p.m. For a full schedule of Friday’s events, click here.
ALSO FRIDAY: Two live events that sought audience participation unfold. At 7 p.m. is Guts N’ Glory, in which 10 teams were given three minutes worth of film stock and charged with shooting a silent film. No do overs or editing witht his one. Then at 8:30 p.m. we’ll get a look at the 24 Hour Video Race winners.
Photo: Dallas Video Festival