Category Archive for: ‘Michael Ferguson’

The Wrecking Crew — Film Review

The Wrecking Crew

Directed by Denny Tedesco

This is a fascinating look at the West Coast music industry of the 1960 and 70s.  There are many intimate interviews with many of the insiders who made the hit records happen time and time again.  The film was made by Denny Tedesco, the son of Tommy Tedesco, one of the lead guitarists in the group.  The real story that this film seeks to lift up is the musicians who played on those records and who were a large part of the creative input on those records, but who never got a visible credit and whose names are unknown to the public.  It was the same small, tight group of high quality musicians that played behind a diverse group of front bands that included The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, The Monkees, The Fifth Dimension, The Association, The Ronettes, John Denver, Nancy Sinatra, and many many others.  These were the studio musicians who played on the records that were played on the radio and sold in record stores.  They also played on popular commercials and theme music for television programs such as Hawaii Five-O.  They did not tour with the bands.  They did not play in stadiums and concert halls.  They were the invisible musical force behind the scenes that gave this music its power and appeal.  For anyone born before 1960 it is a must see, but anyone who listens to the music from that era and is interested in the cultural history of the United States at that time will find much that is of great interest.

What Tedesco has exhibited is the raw material of a documentary, but I think he needs to work on it.  Tedesco is not Ken Burns, but he needs to take some lessons from him.  This material needs some thematic organization, some historical and cultural context, some chronological definition.  This film has no center of gravity.  It lacks a narrative line that would unify it and weave these disparate pieces together into a continuous whole.  As it is, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge, a bunch of very interesting, provocative clips strung together, and each person and each interview is interesting in and of itself, so you cannot fail to be captivated by the content of this film.  I wish Tedesco had a broader and deeper concept of his task.  I think it should be about four times as long.  He should present more background, not only on the individual musicians, but on the entire music phenomenon of the 1960s rock and roll scene.  I would like to see a much more complete catalog of the groups, the albums, and the songs that The Wrecking Crew worked on, as well as a contrast with the groups that did not use the studio musicians from the Wrecking Crew.  Was there discourse between them?  Occasional collaborations and crossovers?  I also wasn’t satisfied with his account of the demise of the Wrecking Crew and how the recording industry changed in the latter half of the 1970s.

In the question and answer session afterwards he said the film is finished, but at the same time he told us he did an interview with Michael Nesmith of the Monkees that very morning.  I hope he will continue to go forward with the project, expand it, and forge a real historical documentary that will become the definitive statement on the period.  He certainly has a priceless trove of material and I could see in the question session that he has much more in his head than he could convey in the film.  I congratulate him on a superb effort in collecting it and truly wish him well in developing it.