History is a funny thing, especially in the pre-Internet days where not everything in the known universe has been seemingly documented endlessly on easily searchable blogs, websites, forums and chat rooms. That said, when it comes to making a documentary about a piece of history, there are often conflicting stories and remembrances. There are egos. There are vendettas. Information gets turned around for potentially unfair advantage.
In the case of a newly released -- but long in the works -- documentary about a group of session musicians who were the unsung heroes behind many of the big hit recordings of the 1960s and early 1970s, there is no shortage of these issues. So much so that I have been encouraged by my editor to add in some balance to the review that follows.
In approaching this task, I return to a comment which one of my High School history teachers signed in my yearbook upon graduation: "Always remember the multiple causes of everything." Truer words were never written and it has served as a useful reminder for me over the years both as a freelance writer and even as a marketing communications and public relations consultant that it is important to consider every perspective on the story.
So before I get into the review I'll bring up a number of points you should consider as you decide, Dear Readers, whether to watch the documentary movie The Wrecking Crew or buy any of the music again for your collections:
a) There have been some concerns voiced by some musician(s) from the period that the term applied to them as found in the documentary's title, The Wrecking Crew, was invented by session drummer Hal Blaine for his 1990 book Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew. Personally, I seem to remember hearing the term bantered about well before that time, but it is beyond the scope of my research to dig down that deep to prove or disprove such detail. Someday if I find a copy of Blaine's book, I will no doubt pick it up for a read.
b) There have been some concerns voiced by some musician(s) that The Wrecking Crew documentary movie was edited to deliver a specific perspective. I don't doubt that but personally have trouble seeing any major flaws in the final product. That is purely my consumer/fanboy perspective. That said, for any of you who have seen the brilliant fake trailers made by fans on YouTube which recut scenes from the likes of delightful children's films like Mary Poppins into a faux horror movie that never existed (Scary Mary Poppins) you know about the power of clever editing. So keep that in mind. There are always two (or more) sides to a story...
c) Numerous people interviewed in The Wrecking Crew documentary have passed away including the man who was the original inspiration for the home-movie-turned-motion-picture in the first place, Tommy Tedesco. With the death of those musicians, who are acknowledged and memorialized at the end of the film, it is impossible for them to have seen and approved the final cut of the film.
d) There are other documentaries about the LA recording scene and the musicians involved including one featuring guitarist Howard Roberts, who reportedly played on many records by The Monkees among others. I will be looking for the Roberts documentary soon.
a) At least this film was made which DOES finally call attention to the undeniable fact that these musicians were in fact the crucial link in the star-making machinery of the period, from Carol Kaye's inventive hook-centric bass lines on songs like Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On" to Hal Blaine's signature drum beat on The Ronettes "Be My Baby." For the first time, the public at large knows about this and it opens a chapter of history that was heretofore undocumented in any visual manner.
b) As an entertainment, The Wrecking Crew documentary goes a long way beyond its original incarnation as a tribute to Tommy Tedesco. As I understand it, Denny Tedesco put up a lot of his own money (and certainly an enormous amount of time) to get this thing off the ground and combined with the funds received from the Kickstarter campaign, it was very much a collaborative effort among fans who wanted to make sure the film saw the light of day.
c) Going back to my history teacher's sage advice, I'll add in notion that NOTHING is perfect. So, yeah, there will inevitably be flaws and mistakes. In the aforementioned category of splitting hairs, for example, on one scene they pan and scan a 1968 Elvis Presley album -- except they used an early '80s pressing which was emblazoned with the "Best Buy" sticker (which RCA employed to distinguish budget priced line at the time). Am I distraught about this mistake? Not really. I'm "that guy" who notices stuff like this. I mean, if I hadn't told you about this you probably wouldn't have noticed it.
d) If there were any incongruities or imbalances, well, that is one of the great things about these United States of America.... so, other film makers can pursue their own documentaries and put in the hard sweat and tears it takes to make a film like this in order to present their side of the story. The fans want to know, so bring it on....
Anyhow, now that I have said all this I'm going try and flow back into a somewhat revised version of my original review. In some ways you are lucky for this revision as you will now not have to endure my over enthusiastic late night writing which had some fun leveraging lyrics from Mylie Cyrus' smash hit "Wrecking Ball."
Was that a sigh of relief I just heard from you in the back row?