Audio Geek: Films to Hear and Watch...
• The Wrecking Crew (2008) documentary by Danny Tedesco. From the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival program guide: "What do the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees, and The Mamas and Papas have in common? Aside from hit songs, they all recorded with The Wrecking Crew. Meet this extraordinarily talented gang of Los Angeles studio musicians who helped create the soundtrack of America."
The SIFF note neglects to mention the Wrecking Crew also played on historic tracks by band leader/trumpet player Herb Alpert ("A Taste of Honey") and producer Phil Spector (The Ronnettes' "Be My Baby"and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"; Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" which the site (erroneously?) credits to both Ike and Tina, but as I recall, Spector didn't want Ike to perform on the track). Danny Tadesco's father was Wrecking Crew session player guitarist Tommy Tedesco who passed away in 1997.
Normally licensing the film's soundtrack would have put Tedesco in debt so large his great-great grandchildren would still be paying it off. Instead the companies who own the songs (yes, Ray Charles and James Brown are among the few major recording artists who owned their own masters) saw the importance of having the documentary out there (hmm, anticipating increased sales of back catalogues?). I'd like to think the companies wanted to demonstrate their respect of and appreciation for the work of these highly trained, talented players who turned to session work when jazz fell on hard times and used their skills and musicality to transform the sound of popular music. (top photo, Wrecking Crew musicians at a Phil Spector recording session; right, the well-respected bassist Carol Kaye, the only woman to break the gender barrier of that eras session musician arena.)
The Gits (2005/2008) documentary directed by Kerri O'Kane. From the Calgary International Film Festival: "In a pre-Nirvana Seattle, The Gits were the resident musical underdogs. With the unparallelled vocal power of front woman Mia Zapata they set the bar for indie rock in the Pacific Northwest. After inspiring such incendiary bands as Seven Year Bitch to pick up their instruments, they caught the ear of major label record execs who heard the muscular riffs and soulful hooks and realized what fans already knew – The Gits were anything but your typical street punk outfit. Because of this, the tragedy that struck in 1993 was that much harder to swallow. With intimate live footage and interviews with the surviving members,director Kerri O’Kane explores the mystique and digs into the mystery of one of the rock world’s most enigmatic bands. One part THE FILTH AND THE FURY, one part CSI: SEATTLE, THE GITS is a rock doc as engaging and powerful as the music that inspired it."
I know what the tragedy is, but won't get into that here. The documentary is about the music, the fans, the Pacific Northwest punk-inflected music scene before the hyperbole of "The Seattle Sound". The Gits really had something, I never saw them live, but they clearly were a gifted outfit of misfit artists who loved playing and creating together. (pictured right; The Gits, publicity photo)
• Check out this September 9, 2008 profile of The Wrecking Crew by musician/producer and NPR commentator David Was (Was Not Was) on NPR, appropriately titled, "When Overqualified Jazz Musicians Go Rocker."
• Advance coverage of The Wrecking Crew, with trailer(!), from the Monday, May 19, 2008, 90.3 KEXP FM Blog.
• More coverage of The Wrecking Crew over at Fusion 45, with a list of even more profiles of the documentary.
• September 5, 2008 multiple profiles of The Gits (the band and the film) on NPR.
• The Gits (band) official website.
• The Gits film website.