For the 2019 WTJU Rock Marathon, I’m hosting a three-hour program of Top-40 hits recorded by members of the Wrecking Crew. This collective of LA studio musicians (in various configurations) recorded thousands of tracks for hundreds of artists. By limiting the program to just their Top-40 work, I’ve narrowed the field somewhat.
But I don’t want to just present a random assortment of tunes. I organized the tracks around some themes to provide context.
Although the Crew worked with just about anyone, some key producers that heavily relied on the collective sound of these musicians.
Phil Spector developed his Wall of Sound and is partially responsible for creating the collective known as the Clique, or the First-Calls (later the Wrecking Crew). He doubled and tripled the musicians playing each instrument to get as big and as broad a sound as possible. I’ll feature classic tracks from the Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, the Crystals, and Ike and Tina Turner.
Sonny Bono started as an assistant to Phil Spector. In addition to using many of Spector’s techniques, he also employed members of the Wrecking Crew. You’ll hear how “The Beat Goes On” was saved by Carol Kaye’s innovative bass line.
Brian Wilson often attended Phil Spector recording sessions to learn all he could. Wilson used the Wrecking Crew to stand in for the Beach Boys in recordings. He also used them for the Pet Sounds album. I’ll have examples of both early Beach Boys and, of course, “Good Vibrations.”
Jimmy Webb was a brilliant songwriter and orchestrator whose work is unmistakable. And he used the Wrecking Crew quite a bit. I’ll include tracks he produced for the Fifth Dimension, Glen Campbell (former member of the Crew), and Richard Harris. Harris’ album is one of the few to actually credit Wrecking Crew musicians in the liner notes.
AKA the Wrecking Crew
Labels wanted to keep studio costs low and output high. Many groups were only allowed to record their vocals. The instrumental work was left to professionals such as the Wrecking Crew, who consistently deliver the goods take after take.
I’ll feature the Wrecking Crew standing in for the Association, the Grass Roots, and the Byrds. You’ll also hear them as the Monkees, and the Partridge Family.
The (Expanded) Rat Pack
The Wrecking Crew mainly recorded rock and pop. But many of the members, such as Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, and Hal Blaine were originally jazz musicians. The Crew played on Frank Sinatra’s come-back sessions, as well as Dean Martin’s. They also backed Nancy Sinatra and played on the duet with her father. We’ll have all that Wednesday, too.
Members of the Wrecking Crew also appear on some classic instrumental tracks. You’ll hear examples from Mason Williams, the Markettes, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Jack Nitzsche, and the T-Bones.
I’m hoping to include tracks by Johnny Rivers, Dick and Deedee, Richie Valens, Sam Cooke, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Petula Clark, Neil Diamond, Jan and Dean, Mamas and Papas, Barry McGuire, Scott McKinsie, Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, and the Carpenters. And if the pledges don’t’ come in, I might even unleash Hamilton, Joe, Frank & Reynolds or Sandy Johns.
I hope you’ll tune in and listen — and pledge.
The Wrecking Crew
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 6-9am
WTJU 91.1 fm, wtju.net
For even more about the Crew’s star bassist, sure to listen to:
Ace of Bass: An Ode to Carol Kaye
Sunday, April 14, 2019 9am-noon
WTJU 91.1 fm, wtju.net