Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Wrecking Crew

From initially starting production in 1996 and finishing in late 2013 with a Kickstarter campaign to cover music licensing and other final touches, this film looked on several occasions like it might never see the light of day. Finally released in 2015 to critical acclaim, The Wrecking Crew - which is out now on DVD – was certainly worth the wait.

Directed by Danny Tedesco, son of one of the eponymous group’s guitarists Tommy, The Wrecking Crew tells the long awaited and definitive story of music history’s most unsung heroes. During the 1960s, it was common practice for bands like The Monkees, The Beach Boys and The Mamas & The Papas to hire studio musicians to record the backing tracks for their songs. The affectionately named Wrecking Crew, a nickname coined by the group’s drummer Hal Blaine, played on countless iconic albums and songs throughout the decade and became some of the most successful and recognisable musicians in the history of music. And yet, with the exception of music history buffs like myself, the majority of people wouldn’t even know their names. This film is here to try and change that.

Told chronologically with very little narration, the film relies on the passionate recollections from the Wrecking Crew’s major players – mainly, the director’s father Tommy Tedesco, to whom this film was dedicated as he passed away shortly after production began. But iconic drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye and several others have plenty of time to tell their story too, with some even getting a segment of the documentary focusing just on them. As well as interviewing these legends individually, the director sat 4 of them down together to reminisce together and it is here that we see the true connection these people have together. The shared passion and happy memories the group have is really touching, and they all seem rather touched by the attention after so many years of anonymity. In these scenes, you really feel like you’re sat with them and part of the conversation. On top of that, their frank and brutally honest confessions about their regrets are often moving, particularly a common comment among them regarding how they wish they’d spent less time working and more time with their children.

As well as being a tribute to these people, The Wrecking Crew is also a tribute to a time and a place. Many of the interviewees seem rather saddened by the changing world of music, especially when discussing their decreasing relevance in the 1970s. It’s now more common for a band to record their own backing tracks and instrumentation, which makes this sort of group obsolete in today’s world. But the Wrecking Crew themselves are an important part of some of the most iconic and influential music in history, particularly in rock n’ roll. Sure you don’t know them by name, you might not even be aware they existed. I know some people I’ve spoken to assumed that bands have done their own music since the beginning of time. But believe me, you’d be surprised just how many songs you know have got the Wrecking Crew playing on them. They’re just historically and culturally important as the bands and singers they supported, and we should always remember the work they put in. A big part of this film is nostalgia, and that’s something we certainly need in today’s joke that is ‘popular music’.

The Wrecking Crew is an exceptionally made documentary. This is mainly thanks to fantastic pacing through a manageable runtime of approximately 95 minutes, and a killer soundtrack filled with iconic tunes from the best decade in music history. Typical for a documentary of this nature, picture quality varies with archive footage from many years helping tell the story, but it’s never bad. The interviews and story are far too absorbing for anything like that to be an issue. The Wrecking Crew is inspiring. The passion and joy these people have, even now, is a rare thing indeed. Hal Blaine states in the film if you love your work, it isn’t work. And that’s a logic we should all apply. These people didn’t need their names plastered on the albums they worked on, they didn’t need a huge amount of money. They just loved what they did and it’s about time we learned their names and gave them the respect they truly deserve.

The Wrecking Crew is essential viewing for anyone interested in music history, and one of the finest documentaries in recent years. It was worth the wait. 5/5.


Sam Love

The Wrecking Crew at CeX

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