Denny Tedesco, son of studio guitarist Tommy Tedesco, has made the best film ever about the Los Angeles studio scene in the 1960s and 1970s. It is called The Wrecking Crew. This movie will be released in selected theaters and available for streaming March 13, 2015. This release comes after many years of limited showings due to music royalty issues for the 100+ songs referenced in the film. A recent round of funding from Kickstarter has finally allowed Tedesco to release his movie through Magnolia Pictures.
The Wrecking Crew is part valentine from a son to his father. The Wrecking Crew is also a nostalgic look back at the LA recording studio music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and many other LA-based artists/producers were cranking out a new type of hit song during that time. Unbeknownst to the public, this music was fueled by the contributions of unsung musicians (including Tedesco). These new, younger, studio musicians who favored casual clothes to the suits of their predecessors were said to be “wrecking the business.” Hence the label, The Wrecking Crew.
What makes this film work is that the senior Tedesco was the real deal. He played on thousands of gigs. He was an amazingly versatile player who could read music (and upside down, too). Tedesco’s professionalism and chops put him in the orbit of so many significant artists, musicians and recording sessions. Younger Tedesco does not need to overstate anything about his father’s accomplishments as they speak for themselves.
Tedesco played on such notable guitar heavy tracks as “The Bonanza Theme” and “The Batman Theme.” Mr. Tedesco further endeared himself to thousands of young guitarists in the 1970s through his Studio Log column in Guitar Player magazine. Each month he would recount the gig, the music, and how much he earned. All this was reported with his great sense of humor that comes through vividly on the film.
But it was his connection with other studio musicians that provides the real narrative for the film. It’s obvious that his peers, specifically drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Carol Kaye really enjoyed working with him.
The Stories Behind the Songs
The Wrecking Crew details the songs and the stories about the musicians who made them. Anecdotes about the bass line for the “The Beat Goes On” and “Good Vibrations” are here. So are the stories of the opening lick to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and the kickdrum count-in to “A Taste of Honey.” If this minutia is interesting to you, this is your movie. These stories are shared directly by the musicians themselves who were there often illustrating them with their instruments.
What also comes through is the camaraderie shared between these musicians. Some of the best parts of the film are the musicians sitting around a table reminiscing and yucking it up with each other after all these years. This real and genuine affinity is impossible to stage and makes you yearn to have been a part of this particular time in music history.
The talking heads assembled in the film are impressive. There are record company founders like Herb Alpert and Lou Adler who bring some gravitas to the business side of things. All stress the sense of how much luck and improvisation were involved in these early days. They had no idea this music would have the longevity it did going on to become the soundtrack to a generation. For many of these musicians, and producers, it was merely another gig.
Because the length this project took in coming to release, some of the key players (including Tedesco in 1997) have passed on. So too have some of the talking heads like Dick Clark who is recorded in full voice and health. The silver lining to the delayed release is that Denny Tedesco has been able to add to the original version (2008) some more recollections from other musicians not included on the first edit. With all the extras, this is a terrific DVD.
The Best of its Genre
This DVD along with Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002), Respect Yourself – The Stax Records Story (2007), and Muscle Shoals (2013) are all outstanding presentations for the 1960’s studio musician scene. Of those three, The Wrecking Crew is my favorite.
Sadly, home studios, software, and tape loops have come to replace the Wrecking Crew generation where musicianship and songwriting were front and center. Now anyone with a computer can slap together a song, have it be in perfect time without Hal Blaine, and miraculously be in tune. Heck, they can even do most of that on their phone.
The days of old described in the Wrecking Crew was a time when LA, with mostly unheralded songwriters and musicians, could actually compete toe-to-toe with the Beatles and Motown in making great records.
I’m sure Tommy Tedesco would be proud of what his son has accomplished here in paying proper respect after all these years.