Unknown by name to many, but heard by millions, The Wrecking Crew was the nickname given to a group of Los Angeles based studio musicians who appeared on countless hits in the ’60s and early ’70s. Directed by Denny Tedesco, son of guitarist Tony, whose numerous credits include the themes from Bonanza, Green Acres, and M*A*S*H, as well as thousands of pop recordings by music’s biggest stars.
While the filmmaker can and does offer personal insight into his father’s life, he gives plenty of interview time to bassist Carol Kaye (one of the few women let into the ‘club.’, drummer Hal Blaine, Plas Johnson, and others. All of these musicians played on countless records for the eras biggest stars—the Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, and Frank Sinatra—and often moved from one studio to another, playing on more than one recording a day. Many of them openly admit that their personal lives suffered. But to paraphrase one of them, if you weren’t available for a session, someone else was always willing to take your place.
“The musicians were really the unsung heroes of all those records,” Nancy Sinatra said of the Wrecking Crew, who performed the backing music, including that classic bass line, for her 1966 smash “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”
Tedesco includes lots of great vintage studio footage of the Wreckers at work, as well as later interviews with the stars they worked with including Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, and other, as well as some of the Wreckers who later became stars on their own, such as Glen Campbell and Leon Russell.
Denny Tedesco spent more than a decade working on the project. The film initially premiered in 2008 at the South by Southwest festival, but then was shelved for years as Danny Tedesco worked out legal issues surrounding music licensing. The time lapse explains interviews with such folks as Dick Clark, Frank Zappa, and others who unfortunately passed away long before the film saw a theatrical release in early 2015. Those interviews were likely conducted more than a decade ago.
Any music fan, especially one who liked to read the linear notes of every album purchased, should get something out of The Wrecking Crew. If nothing else, it’s nice to see this largely unsung group of very talented musicians finally getting their due. You may find yourself listening to music in a whole new way.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is as good as can be expected, given the myriad of sources used. Some of the footage is vintage, some newer. There is no banding, aliasing, or artifacts that really affect the picture.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track does a good job with the various musical cues, and provides clean, clear dialogue throughout. Drums aren’t quite as strong as one might have hoped, but guitar, bass, and piano all come through nicely.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
- Deleted Scenes: The Blu-ray boasts more than six hours of extras, and the bulk can be found on these “deleted scenes”, which are mostly comprised of interview snippets from Wrecking Crew members who didn’t get their due in the film. There’s some great stuff here, but they’re all annoying to navigate. (I couldn’t return to the main menu without fast forwarding to the end of an interview.) Each of the highlighted categories features a Play All option. “Songs” (57:40) features anecdotes regarding the creation and legacy of hits like “A Little Less Conversation”, “Twistin’ the Night Away”, “California Dreamin’” and others. “Themes” (40:02) covers cultural shifts like Beatlemania, changes in recording technology, and the Wrecking Crew’s incredible work ethic. “Musician Jokes” (6:24) features a rim shot after each punchline. “Guitar”(1:00:11) is highlighted by footage of Tommy Tedesco performing “Engineers” (27:31) takes time to praise some of the non-musical talent behind the scenes, while “Artists” (43:11) features thoughts from the likes of Barry Maguire, Peter Tork, and Richard Carpenter. Individual instrumentalists and technicians get their due during “Bass” (16:16), “Drums/Percussion” (23:27), “Piano” (54:50), “Producers/Arrangers” (45:17), and “Horns” (11:47).
- Song Credits: (2:51) Similar to a movie’s end credits, this gives belated recognition to Wrecking Crew members for their contributions to iconic songs/themes.
- Dedications: (2:05) Wrecking crew members get acknowledged in this list of dedications that accompanies their many classic songs.
- Donors, Sponsors, Kickstarters: (7:29) Acknowledges the people and sponsors who helped finance the documentary.
- Theatrical Trailer