If you live in LA, go see the documentary The Wrecking Crew at the Arclight in Hollywood this week only. The movie not only has good commentary from Cher, it has a semi-lengthy clip of Sonny & Cher in sessions for their Wondrous World album and interviews and conversations about the many musicians and producers who worked with them in the 60s and 70s. You get a great sense of what recordings were all about during that time of that frenetic westcoast sound S&C were part of. You also get:
- Extensive interviews and discussions about drummer Hal Blaine, who played on many a Cher and Sonny & Cher album.
- Interviews with Snuff Garrett – including a clip where he talks about “Gypsys Tramps and Thieves” a fact that made me rethink the musicians used for the All I Ever Need is You album. If the Wrecking Crew played for Snuff on the solo Kapp album Cher in 1971, they most likely played on the duet album as well instead of S&C’s live band at the time who played on their first live album.
- Jimmy Webb was also interviewed extensively but not about anything related to Cher.
- This tightly knit group of studio musicians were more often than not excluded from album credits even though they were the real musicians behind so many iconic albums, even for heavy-hitters like The Beach Boys and The Byrds. Conventional wisdom was that it would have been embarrassing to credit them. Buy at least producers like Phil Spector and Snuff Garret made sure they got paid well. It’s also interesting to note that Sonny Bono did credit them on Sonny & Cher’s debut album Look at Us: Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, Don Randi, Mike Rubini, Don Peake, Julius Wechter.
- Cher commented that she didn’t know how great these musicians were when she recorded with them; she was very shy and new to recording and she was basically just trying not to get in anyone’s way. Years later other musicians would ask her about working with these musicians with awe and respect.
- The Wrecking Girl had one chick, Carol Kaye, and she was awesome! Worth seeing the movie for her contributions alone. She explained first hearing and working on “The Beat Goes On” and coming up with that great bass hook. She sang how the song sounded as written (kind of adult contemporary, not very groovy) and how she thought ‘we gotta light this thing up!’ Very funny. She said Sonny loved it and they used it. Her story was indicative of how these studio musicians contributed in substantial ways to songs from Herb Albert to The Beach Boys.
- More interesting tid-bits about what contributed to the wall of sound: the ceramic walls of Gold Star Studios, the bleeding between playing instruments and making musicians do so many takes, they became exhausted (less showboating).
- If you see the movie at the Arclight in Hollywood, you are in a one-mile radius of where all these great songs were recorded. Amazing insight into 60s California sound.
I also learned a lot about Plas Johnson and Tommy Tedesco who was doing guitar on just about every iconic piece of music from the 60s or 70s, including many TV themes like Bonanza and MASH.
At the end of the movie there was a Q&A with Don Randi (who played piano on Look at Us) with the film’s director. The film is doing very well in festivals and showcases but is looking for a distributor. They do plan a DVD and soundtrack at some point. There are 125 songs in the movie, so that will be an interesting soundtrack. Check Wreckingcrewfilm.com for more information. Or read my post from last week.