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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review

'The Wrecking Crew' offers a behind-the-scenes look at the session players who made hits for everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys




Where is it playing?: The Palm Theatre of San Luis Obispo

What's it rated?: PG

What's it worth?: $9.00 (Anna)

What's it worth?: $9.00 (Glen)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

What do The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, The Mamas & The Papas, and The Righteous Brothers all have in common? They used a group of session players called The Wrecking Crew on their hit records. Denny Tedesco directs this documentary that chronicles the contributions this group of formerly unsung heroes have made to the music world. (101 min.)

Glen: Anyone with an interest in music is going to love this 2008 documentary that spent the last seven years in search of a distributor. It’s a remarkable look back at the band behind many of the ’60s hit records from a wide range of groups. If you thought the members of The Beach Boys or The Byrds played the instruments on their iconic recordings, you’re wrong. Instead, it was a group of about 20 revolving L.A. session players who created, but were never credited for, these tracks. In fact, these formerly unknown players often created in studio the most important musical elements that made the songs stand out. For instance, on Sony & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On,” that amazing opening bass line was created by female bassist Carol Kaye, who took the basic, and dare I say boring original bass line, and made it into the recording’s signature hook! The whole affair is told through archival footage and photographs as well as interviews with people such as Cher, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, trumpet player Herb Alpert, Dick Clark, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, and many more. And the music? It’s one great song after another. 

Anna: This film is worth seeing just for the soundtrack, and if you’ve got a rock ’n’ roll loving bone in your body, it’s worth it doubly so. This is such a great and intimate look at some of the most iconic and recognizable songs from the ’60s, delving into the phenomenon of surf rock, Elvis, Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Sonny & Cher, and many more who used the talents of these musicians because they wanted the best of the best on their albums. This core group of musicians was truly kick ass—they worked hard, took little credit, and showed up the next day ready to do it again. The filmmaker is Tommy Tedesco’s son, and his father was one of the greats during the era, a truly phenomenal guitar player who was in the thick of it from day one. In a roundtable discussion, we’re able to see a small sampling of the Crew relive, remember, and remake some of the best moments in modern music history. 

Glen: Glen Campbell is a rare example of both a member of The Wrecking Crew as well as one of the artists they made famous. He was a session guitarist who became a vocalist solo artist, and when it came time to record his classics like “Wichita Lineman,” who’d he tap to play the music? That’s right! His old Wrecking Crew buds. I think what’s most touching is the approach by director Denny Tedesco—who made the film in honor of his father—to shine light on those who deserve credit for these amazing songs. As most know, the music biz sure is “colorful,” and this behind-the-scenes look shows why. Remember the Milli Vanilli controversy? That was commonplace, and that’s how far we’ve come. We no longer accept “fakers.” For a lot of the iconic songs you still hear on oldies stations, what you hear is not the members of The Righteous Brothers or The Mamas & The Papas—it’s musicians like Carol Kaye and Tommy Tedesco, who laid down the riffs, beats, and rhythms that are the soundtrack of our lives. This documentary tries to right the wrong of this lack of credit. Stay through the end credits to see how they right this wrong.

Anna: These are the musicians that I am totally in awe of. They appreciate money, but don’t play in search of it. They search endlessly for what will be interesting and unique for the artists they’re working with. They have talent that I can’t even imagine. There’s something really great about watching the story of the underlings, the unnamed guys and gal (there was one!) who were the meat behind the music. Between the love that is clearly evident between Denny Tedesco and his father and the camaraderie among the musicians, this is a feel-good, shake-your-hips kind of flick.

Sun Screen is written by Sun contributor and New Times staff writer Glen Starkey and his wife Anna. Comment at