The easiest way to assess the importance of The Wrecking Crew is simply to glance at list of the songs to which they contributed. It’s below and it’s pretty stunning.
The Wrecking Crew was a group only in the generic use of the term. It was a loose association of musicians who were on call to back a wide variety of musicians. Several recognizable names were associated with the group, including Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Dr. John and jazz guitarist Barney Kessel.
A documentary on The Wrecking Crew was produced by Denny Tedesco, who is the son of Tommy Tedesco, a guitarist and one of the collective’s leaders. The entire film is available on YouTube.
That version, however, only presents a fraction the music The Wrecking Crew created. A CD and related items at the movie’s website and Facebook page.
I had a chance to speak with Denny a while back. While a good deal of the music that came out of The Wrecking Crew was innovative — Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and The Beach Boys’ landmark “Pet Sounds” album, for instance — the day-to-day reality was about professional musicians feeding their families. The Monkees and Tiny Tim, with whom the Crew worked, are fondly remembered — but certainly not for innovation or creative genius.
- Audio Only: Denny Tedesco on The Wrecking Crew 41:50
These songs are so much a part of the sound tracks of our lives because these musicians made them that way. It’s a testament to their skills and hard work that they produced so much music that still is listened to in so many genres. It also illustrates how deeply connected music is. The Wrecking Crew, one of rock and roll’s architects, was simultaneously working with artists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
The Wrecking Crew worked with young acts that would branch off into very different areas of what became contemporary music. It says something important about music in general and American music in particular that Ike and Tina Turner, Simon and Garfunkel, The Partridge Family and The Beach Boys relied upon the same basic group of musicians.
On one level, this was possible because they were so technically skilled (indeed, much of the material didn’t test their abilities). Just as importantly, these musicians succeeded because they were attuned to the musicians and the broader culture.
Coming up with just the right touch to create a song that resonates with the public is no accident — though it may be intuitive. The Wrecking Crew did it repeatedly and in many types of music. That’s in no way meant to limit the contribution of the headline singer or group, of course. It is meant to say The Wrecking Crew provided a necessary ingredient beyond their ability to play their instruments.
A quick note: There are two ways to listen to the interview. Click on the YouTube above for the video. Unfortunately, my prehistoric equipment and Denny’s background made for a less than stellar presentation. An audio only version is above.
Songs Featuring The Wrecking Crew:
“He’s a Rebel” (The Crystals)
“Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” (The Crystals)
“Surf City” (Jan and Dean)
“Be My Baby” (The Ronettes)
“I Get Around” (The Beach Boys)
“Dead Man’s Curve” (Jan and Dean)
“Everybody Loves Somebody” (Dean Martin)
“Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” (Jan and Dean)
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ” (The Righteous Brothers)
“Help Me, Rhonda” (The Beach Boys)
“Mr. Tambourine Man” (The Byrds)
“This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis and the Playboys)
“California Dreamin’ ” (The Mamas & the Papas)
“Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire)
“I Got You Babe” (Sonny & Cher)
“Good Vibrations” The Beach Boys)
“Monday Monday” (The Mamas & the Papas)
“River Deep – Mountain High” (Ike and Tina Turner)
“Strangers in the Night” Frank Sinatra
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ ” (Nancy Sinatra)
“Up, Up and Away” (The 5th Dimension)
“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) “Scott McKenzie)
“Somethin’ Stupid” (Frank & Nancy Sinatra)
“The Beat Goes On” (Sonny & Cher)
“Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell)
“Mrs. Robinson” (Simon & Garfunkel)
”Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (Tiny Tim)
“Classical Gas” (Mason Williams)
“Galveston” (Glen Campbell)
“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (The 5th Dimension)
“The Boxer” (Simon & Garfunkel)
“(They Long to Be) Close to You” (The Carpenters)
“I Think I Love You” (The Partridge Family)
“Bridge over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel)
“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” (Cher)
“Indian Reservation” Raiders (AKA Paul Revere and the Raiders)
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” (The 5th Dimension)
“It Never Rains in Southern California” (Albert Hammond)
“Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” (Johnny Rivers)
“Rhinestone Cowboy” (Glen Campbell)
“Love Will Keep Us Together” (Captain & Tennille)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell)