The Wrecking Crew Movie Review: A Musical History and a Labor of Love

A few months back Marc Maron released an episode of his podcast, WTF, where he sat down with Denny Tedesco to talk about his project The Wrecking Crew. I listened to him talk to Maron about this documentary and I was intrigued and excited to see this film when it came out. I am happy to say I was not let down.

The Wrecking Crew is not just a film about the group of ultra-talented musicians whose work you have heard over and over on some the biggest albums of all time, but it is Denny’s loving tribute to his late father Tommy Tedesco and the other musicians that made up The Wrecking Crew.

Beginning in the 1960s, this group of unsung musicians would spend their days going from studio to studio laying down the instrumental tracks for groups like The Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, the Monkees, and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. They could accomplish in days what it would take members of the actual bands weeks to record.

Denny began this documentary in 1995 when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film features interviews, photos, and footage of his father Tommy as well as other Wrecking Crew members Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Don Randi, Al Casey, Plas Johnson, Earl Palmer, and Joe Osborn to name a few.

The footage that Denny includes of his father’s speaking engagements later in life give a fuller picture of Tommy’s personality and his sense of humor. I finished this film with the desire of wanting to have met Tommy Tedesco and watched him play.

Denny also includes photos and interview footage with Wrecking Crew member turned star Glenn Campbell before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The interviews are bittersweet and something I think his family and fans will appreciate.

Although Denny began the film in 1995, it took him so long to finish it because it required over $300,000 and a lot of work to secure the rights to the 130 songs that appear in the film. Those songs are just a small portion of everything the Wrecking Crew worked on during their multi-decade reign.

Denny serves as the film’s narrator and his narration adds to the personalization of this film by letting his audience know he is telling a story that is very close to home for him. He also has given this documentary a great look with its stylized credits and transitions whose font and graphic design pay a nice homage to the era in which the members of Wrecking Crew began their lengthy careers.

The Wrecking Crew is an important film because it fills in some of the silences and gaps in music history, Black history, and women’s history in America. This diverse group of musicians not only came together during the rise of rock ‘n’ roll but during a still heavily segregated and white male-dominated time. But none of that mattered in the studio; what did matter was their talent, not the color of their skin, their ethnic background, nor their gender.

This documentary is a great watch for any music lover but it is also a great watch for any musician. The interviews and footage dive into the creative process of these talented studio craftsmen and women. Denny brings his audience the stories of how some of the greatest American music came to exist.

This is a documentary I will watch several more times because there is so much packed into this film that I know I can only benefit from further viewings. The Wrecking Crew is also a documentary I want to share with my friends and family not just because of the music history but because the film is such a labor of love.

The Wrecking Crew opens in Los Angeles on March 13. The film is rated PG and has a running time of 101 minutes. To listen to the Marc Maron’s WTF episode with Denny Tedesco, it is episode 517.

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Darcy Staniforth

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