Are you a great but unjustly obscure musician? Be patient: Somebody eventually will make a documentary about your achievements. The Wrecking Crew—a self-contained universe of LA all-star session musicians who worked with stunning efficiency, endurance, and excellence when pop and rock were blooming and booming in the 1960s—is as worthy a subject as any for this sort of cinematic tribute.
And it's an inside job, directed by Denny Tedesco, son of late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco. The project began in 1995 with the objective of documenting Tommy's accomplishments, after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. But as the film progressed, Denny realized he had a bigger story on his hands: his dad's Wrecking Crew bandmates and their seemingly superhuman talents. (“We'd do an album a day for five or six weeks at a time,” drummer Earl Palmer said. “Six tunes in the morning, six tunes in the evening.”)
Denny scored revelatory interviews with the likes of drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, saxophonist Plas Johnson, guitarist Glen Campbell, and recording artists who benefited from their skills, like Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn, and Cher. The Wrecking Crew played on countless hits and obscurities by everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Monkees to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound stable, plus several TV themes, and the film crams as many of them into it as the budget allows, although some omissions rankle (David Axelrod's Electric Prunes LPs, for one).
Nevertheless, The Wrecking Crew—which is part of a burgeoning subgenre encompassing reverent portrayals of unjustly obscure music-biz figures, such as 20 Feet from Stardom, Muscle Shoals, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, etc.—offers much pleasure and insight.
It's always sweet to see overlooked stellar artists get validated and to learn the details of their enduring creations. The Wrecking Crew does this while also shedding light on one of music's most fertile and paradigm-shifting phases.