Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story Of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman

Do you know what "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel, "California Dreaming" by the Mamas and the Papas, "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire, "Help Me, Rhonda" by the Beach Boys, "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra, "Up, Up and Away" by the 5th Dimension, "Close to You" by the Carpenters, and most of the early recordings by the Tijuana Brass, Monkees, the Union Gap, and Grass Roots all have in common? The same drummer, Hal Blaine. "How could this be?" you might ask. While some of the acts above obviously needed back-up musicians, other were supposed to be self-sufficient bands playing their own music. Was Blaine in all of the music groups above? The answers to these questions are found in the new history The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story Of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman.

The unofficially-named Wrecking Crew were a couple of dozen or so studio musicians whom record producers used to improve the singles that they were releasing in the late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. While well paid by the standards of the era, most were never credited on album covers or in the press. Particularly with groups like the Beach Boys, Byrds, Doors, Association, Grass Roots, and Union Gap, the record company marketers and the groups themselves did not want it known that they had had help making their records sound good. Fans might have been disappointed to learn the boys in the magazines were not really playing on the records.

In The Wrecking Crew, Hartman tells a fairly chronological story about what went on in the recording studios around Los Angeles with a few side trips to London, New York, Chicago, and Nashville. Each chapter is named after a song, such "The Limbo Rock" or "Classical Gas," and recounts the unfolding of musical discovery against studio politics. Central characters include Blaine, Glen Campbell, Phil Spector, Jimmy Webb, and Carol Kaye, the sole woman in the Crew.

I could hardly put The Wrecking Crew down, but I am a Boomer who was enthralled with the music described. With so many names, it will be a tough read for someone from a younger generation. Still, there is a lot to learn for anyone and a nice list of songs in the appendix to help. I'm sure they are all on You-Tube.

Hartman, Kent. The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story Of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret. Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. 292p. ISBN 9780312619749.


simplicius said...

Ooooh, shiny! Thanks for the head's up. I'll be reading it soon

Robert said...

OK, Rick. Your first paragraph had me going as I could remember absolutely nothing in common there! So, I'm sold. Guess I must actually get up and go find this book as it sounds very interesting. Thanks, again.

ricklibrarian said...

Robert, I hope you enjoy it. It made me think of listening to lots of records with you.