Love will keep us together

— Captain and Tennille

It all started with one man, Tommy Tedesco, who was known all over music town as the King of L.A. Session Guitarists. There were many in The Wrecking Crew, a merry band of backup musicians of the ’60s and ’70s, but most of them agree that it was Tommy who was their Robin Hood. Tommy died in 1997 of cancer, and many of the crew have since “knock, knock, knocked on heaven’s door.” What we have in this piece is sadly, a self eulogy.

“The Wrecking Crew” is an impressive, electric, throbbing love letter to Tommy and the crew, put together by his son Denny Tedesco, who clearly idolized his father. Denny sacrificed a chunk of his youth and earning years to create this testimony to Tommy and the magnificent band of brothers and one sister, the legendary rock bassist Carol Kaye.

Kaye, in her time with the group and outside work, made more money than the president of the United States. You can Google that. This, in a time when female musicians sat around the bottom of the ladder waiting for a man to give then a break.

It was Kaye we learn, who jazzed up the bass line for Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” Yeah, tell me you don’t remember that. And how many of you can still beat it out on the table?

How many, I wonder, knew the crew was the group of guardian angels who sat on the shoulders of the greatest rock and roll musicians of the grand era? Hold up your hands. Yeah, right. I lived the two great decades in Hollywood with this stuff coming out of my hair, and I didn’t.

This is the crew who recorded for the Byrds on the memorable “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and so impressed Brian Wilson when he heard the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” that he hired them to back up his Beach Boys.

We get to watch the nutty Phil Spector, now languishing in prison, create the Wall of Sound. We listen to the crew help the Righteous Brothers create “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” back up Frank Sinatra, and then help Nancy do “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Great icons of the time are everywhere, and many secrets revealed.

“Wrecking Crew” is essentially a candy box full of soft-centered yummies for those of you older then 50 who lived the times, and for fans and collectors of great rock and roll sounds.

The list of talkers and players in the film goes on and on: Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, the Association, Elvis, Wayne Newton, who still owns “Danke Schoen,” no matter who else recorded it.

Dean Martin is one of the winners, including the Righteous Brothers and the delectable Mamas and Papas, my personal favorites, and Glenn Campbell, who started out plucking his guitar with the backups and then went on to stardom, aided by the crew he started with. A nice story.

And a big story of the who new? list is how the crew did the themes for “Pink Panther,” “Bonanza,” “Hawaii Five-0” and dozens and dozens of other shows of the time. Who knew? No, you didn’t.

Most of the talkers who bring tears to the eyes are dead now. Only a couple remain. But we hear from Herb Alpert, Jimmy Webb and a touch of the Frank Zappa.

It took a long time for this tribute to reach the screen. It was completed in 2008 and has been shown at festivals, but dealing with the money guys in the high towers who didn’t want to give on the royalties was a battle for the young Tedesco. But he persisted and we’re the winners.

The agony of the piece is how the use of the great music came in tiny bits and pieces, dropping in, teasing us and then moving on.

I expect to see a packed house or two at Waterville’s Railroad Square Cinema, full of early and late gray-haired devotees who once wore pony tails and lavender glasses as I did, beating the seats in front of them and tapping their feet while wiping away the tears.

Watch for the great words at the end of the credits, “No musicians were harmed in the making of this film.” No, but my heart was cracked. There is no need for artists like this crew in this dark musical age. Rap and hip hop artists are too busy cannibalizing each other.

Time and its ravages, seems to have driven us all apart but not really. From the words of Captain and Tennille, “Love will keep us together.” And the beat will go on.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


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