TV and Music Industry Legend Dick Clark has passed away today, April 18, 2012, at the age of 82 after suffering a massive heart attack. He had a good, long life. For about the first 70 years of his life, say up until he had that devastating stroke in 2004, Dick Clark looked just as he did in the photo above. He was like a modern-day Dorian Gray, staying forever young while an oil painting of his likeness aged in an attic somewhere. Tell me I’m not right about that. The man just never aged. RIP Dick Clark. I wish I knew your secret to eternal youth.
Using a phrase like “The soundtrack of your life” means different things to different people. While I can admit to being a fan of music practically since I was an egg, as far as the role music had in attaching itself to seminal memories, informing my current tastes and shaping the person that I am today, the soundtrack of my life would have to be the music I heard on AM radio stations while growing up in Southern California during the 60s and 70s.
The pop music of that era is unique in many ways, but one facet of its enduring sound is tied in to the fact that so much of that music was recorded by a select group of highly versatile and keenly skilled studio musicians that came to be known informally as The Wrecking Crew. These musicians were constantly brought in for session work by legendary producers, such as Phil Spector and Lou Adler, for their ability to turn in top quality, professional performances in a brief window of time, and their presence on recordings of the era is nearly ubiquitous. To peruse a comprehensive list of Wrecking Crew recordings would likely make your head explode with its vast scope, but a few of the songs you might be familiar with include:
Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots,” Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High,” “Indian Reservation” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, “Windy” By the Association, The Mama’s & Papa’s “California Dreaming,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers, Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” (Note: Campbell was a staple Wrecking Crew guitarist before embarking on his own successful singing career) “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher”, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, anything by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass as well as TV-series-based bands such as The Partridge Family and The Monkees, and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album in its entirety. They were also responsible for creating Phil Spector’s signature “Wall of Sound.”
If you’ve just had to lift your jaw from the floor, please know that these songs barely scratch the surface of the extensive recorded catalog featuring members of The Wrecking Crew. You might think that setting out to create a documentary film about The Wrecking Crew would be a daunting task that no one could possibly be up for; but you would be incorrect. One highly prolific Wrecking Crew guitarist was a guy named Tommy Tedesco, who passed away in 1997. Before he died, however, Tommy’s son Denny began working on this documentary as an homage to his dad. After fifteen years of research, conducting interviews and going through film and photography archives, the film is now complete, though reams of footage remain for additional content. After doing well on the festival circuit, Tedesco has been screening The Wrecking Crew privately in select national markets in order to raise funds for a DVD release. I attended such a screening in Brooklyn on Sunday evening and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this film, and how appealing, worthwhile and valuable this movie is.
As much as the film was a labor of love and obviously a highly personal memoir of Tommy Tedesco and his fellow musicians, The Wrecking Crew is also a riveting piece of musical and cultural history, capturing a time in the music industry and the American lifestyle that will never, ever be duplicated. It is must-see viewing for any music fan. I am not exaggerating when I say that my mind was blown about every five minutes during this film. The movie is also extremely laugh-out-loud funny in parts, as well as being very deeply heartfelt. I had to dab tears away from my eyes more times than I care to admit because so much of it felt personal to me. I can’t imagine others will not have similar reactions. The Wrecking Crew is possibly the best music documentary I’ve ever seen.
While the Wrecking Crew consisted of approximately 20- 30 musicians, Tedesco focuses on a select few – with his dad being a key player, of course – to tell the stories behind the music, including drummers Hal Blaine (widely known as the World’s Most Recorded Drummer) and the late Earl Palmer, Bassist Carol Kaye, Saxophonist Plas Johnson (Think: Pink Panther Theme), Glen Campbell, Pre-stroke Dick Clark, Cher, Brian Wilson and Herb Alpert (known for both his stunning and iconic trumpet compositions as well as for having founded A&M Records) among others who may not be household names, but whose work you will know. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to final credits. Wrecking Crew!
Denny Tedesco still needs approximately $250,000 in additional funding to pay for the licensing of all this awesome music. I’m sure that a mega-celeb such as Cher – who is interviewed several times in the film – could handle that size of a donation and not even miss the cash. But anyone who would like to see this important film brought to a wide audience can also support the film by attending a screening (suggested donations range from $12 to $30) or visiting the website and making a donation of any amount at This Link. To locate a screening in your area visit this list of upcoming screenings at Wrecking Crew Film Dot Com.