Best band in the business
THE WRECKING CREW Directed by Denny Tedesco. Featuring Cher, Herb Alpert, Micky Dolenz, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell. Club, IFI, Dublin, 101 min In his good-natured (and very old) contribution to this melodic documentary, Micky Dolenz, maddest member of the Monkees, offers a qualified defence for the band’s infamous lack of involvement in their early records. He doesn’t pretend that they played any more of the music than has been rumoured. However, he does point out that many supposedly more “authentic” groups were doing much the same thing.
Indeed, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, among the most revered records of its era, could be fairly described as a collaboration between Brian Wilson and LA’s most distinguished session musicians.
That cadre occasionally went by the name the Wrecking Crew (though some barely remember hearing those words) and this documentary finally gives them deserved recognition. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, these gritty professionals beefed up more great records than seems humanly possible. They were swooping beneath the Mamas & the Papas, grinding around Nancy Sinatra and leaning robustly against Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”. The Wrecking Crew were – as far as the studio went – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.
Denny Tedesco’s film is a personal project that has been a long time in the making. The centrepiece – presented in telltale narrow ratio and fuzzy
Sonny Bono and Cher: worked with the legendary Wrecking Crew
resolution – is a conversation between a small group of crew members from the mid-1990s. Tommy Tedesco, the director’s guitarist dad, who died in 1997, is among the most colourful and amusing. But many viewers will be even more taken with contributions from bassist Carol Kaye, one of very few women accepted into the gang.
No serious music fan will want to miss The Wrecking Crew. The documentary makes fascinating connections between the fledgling high-showbiz days of rock’n’roll and the rise of more versatile singer-songwriters in the 1970s. But this remains a fairly routine documentary that (due to disputes over rights, apparently) speaks to us from two removes: the era of the musicians’ pomp and the period when most interviews were recorded. It will play on BBC Four forever and ever.