Audie Award Winner, History, 2013
If you were a fan of popular music in the 1960s and early '70s, you were a fan of the Wrecking Crew - whether you knew it or not.
On hit record after hit record, by everyone from the Byrds, the Beach Boys, and the Monkees to the Grass Roots, the 5th Dimension, Sonny & Cher, and Simon & Garfunkel, this collection of West Coast studio musicians from diverse backgrounds established themselves as the driving sound of pop music - sometimes over the objection of actual band members forced to make way for Wrecking Crew members.
Industry insider Kent Hartman tells the dramatic, definitive story of the musicians who forged a reputation throughout the business as the secret weapons behind the top recording stars. Mining invaluable interviews, the author follows the careers of such session masters as drummer Hal Blaine and keyboardist Larry Knechtel, as well as trailblazing bassist Carol Kaye, who went on to play in thousands of recording sessions. Listeners will discover the Wrecking Crew members who would forge careers in their own right, including Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, and learn of the relationship between the Crew and such legends as Phil Spector and Jimmy Webb.
Hartman also takes us inside the studio for the legendary sessions that gave us Pet Sounds, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and the rock classic “Layla”, which Wrecking Crew drummer Jim Gordon cowrote with Eric Clapton for Derek and the Dominos. And the author recounts priceless scenes, such as Mike Nesmith of the Monkees facing off with studio head Don Kirshner, Grass Roots lead guitarist (and future star of The Office) Creed Bratton getting fired from the group, and Michel Rubini unseating Frank Sinatra's pianist for the session in which the iconic singer improvised the hit-making ending to “Strangers in the Night”.
The Wrecking Crew tells the collective, behind-the-scenes stories of the artists who dominated Top-40 radio during the most exciting time in American popular culture.
©2012 Kent Hartman (P)2012 Tantor
"[The Wrecking Crew] has the...potent excitement of a collection of greatest hits. It makes good music sound better." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
The Beach Boys were always a mystery to me. I have gone to see them several times, each time they were worse than the last. The voices intermittently hit the mark, but the musicianship would embarrass a 3rd grade band. I wondered how the same people who recorded Pet Sounds could be in front of me with a minimal knowledge of their instruments. Now I know.
This book is good.
Bought this book after watching the documentary and found that it contains many more stories and interesting details than the documentary (which was equally good). Who knew?
I can't think of another book to compare this to - it is unique.
Good voice well paced.
Anyone who likes rock and roll would like this book.
It seems as though Kent Hartman learned to write by composing blurbs for paperbacks. His alliterative metaphors double up on each other. This "look at me" style of writing is really annoying especially when you hear it read aloud. Just one typical example, he refers to Phil Spector as "The elfin emperor." Perhaps that doesn't sound like a big deal but four or five of these things per page it really begins to grate on the listener after a while.
Starting a book about several disparate people describing events that seemed important to them was I though very hokey and not at all enlightening: Hal Blaine caught in a circus fire, Glenn Campbell getting a whipping... come on!
The other thing is when you're writing a book about musicians who do you imagine is going to buy it and read it? People who are very interested in music and how musicians develop their chops, that's who and that's what they want to know. Most of us who read these books have inadvertently done as much research on this subject as the author has. Therefore we expect the author to know that Bertha Spector until the day she died referred to her son by his REAL name, Harvey, NEVER as Phil. If I know that and Mr. Hartman doesn't, what else did he get wrong? My guess is plenty.
So much is glossed over. He tells a very interesting story about how Don Peake conned his way into an important gig by being able to play Be Bop A Lula, one of three songs he knew on guitar. The thing is, after it was discovered that he really couldn't play guitar, he was kept on and the other band members PAID FOR HIS GUITAR LESSONS! Hartman acts as though this is typical musician behavior. It is not. Why did they do this for Peake? This is the story we'd like to know and he writes as though it was self-explanatory. There are many of these instances in this book.
As far as I know The Wrecking Crew is the only book Kent Hartman has ever written.
I thought the tragic story of Jim Gordon was well-told and of great interest.
I thought the angst of the Monkeys, the Byrds, etc not being allowed to play their own instruments on recordings attributed to them was interesting and ironic. They were getting paid, weren't they? Would they rather drive a taxi?
Mr. Hartman seems to think that fans were fooled by these prefabricated groups. We were not. One of the most impressive things about the Beatles was that they played their own instruments. We were used to "singing" groups and the Beach Boys, for example, was a singing group. When they became competitive with the Beatles and started claiming they too played their own instruments, they fooled no one. Many of us knew the names, Glenn Campbell, Hal Blaine, Barney Kessel, James Burton etc. If they were a 'secret,' they were a poorly kept secret.
There is much that is interesting in The Wrecking Crew. There is a continent of information however that is glossed over and left out. The evolution of Barney Kessel is never described nor his mentoring of young Phil Spector. Mac Rebennack I don't think is mentioned once. Leon Russell is glossed over. James Burton, Nino Tempo are footnotes. Much more could be written on this subject in greater detail.
The Swamp Birds are never mentioned as such. Steve Cropper and Duane Allman are name drops.
More in-depth Audible books on this subject are, Mick Brown's Tearing Down the Wall of Sound, Tommy James and Martin Fitzpatrick's Me, The Mob and the Music, Life by Keith Richards, and Peter Ames Carlin's Bruce.
I am a fan of the music from the 60's and the 70's, heck truth told there is just about no music I do not enjoy. So as to not give the "plot Away" too badly it tells the history of how the in studio music was recorded during the heyday of Rock and roll. Touches on the Beach Boys, Phil Spector and an interesting story about Glenn Campbell. it's a must read if you enjoy the ins and outs of Rock and Roll.
This book reminded me of the Casey Kasem Top 40 count down. In Casey's count down he would introduce an up coming song with a cheesy story - the small town kid that finally made it big or the girl that defied the odds and finally launched a hit after so many rejections. The sappy stories never lasted long and a good song always followed so they were palatable. This book, unfortunately, has none of those redeeming qualities, it is not completely unentertaining, however - especially if you know and like the music described.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Like many of the songs that are described in the book, The Wrecking Crew may be worth listening to again. However, I think the next step is to see the film documentary. Though it may lack the detail of the book, it would have the added benefit of including snippets of the songs and showing us the faces of the musicians who are the subject of the book.
Actually, I found that it was the songs that held this true life story together, and the author must have felt so as well, organizing the chapters by song rather than my personality. When your subjects are anonymous studio musicians who are by necessity devoid of the egomania that drives their front men, their biographical back stories, while certainly interesting, do not burn down any barns.
But the songs they created -- the stories behind how these huge hits of the 60s and 70s came together in surprising ways -- is the real attraction here, especially for people like me who grew up on those songs.
If you consider my first name, one of the most interesting stories is how they came up with the coda to Strangers in the Night. I have had to live with that my whole life. I never knew until now how Frank Sinatra ended up improvising that fade out on the third take, and how the producer decided to include it in the version that was ultimately released.
And if you ever danced the limbo at a party, you might be surprised to hear the story of how the famous limbo song came to be -- how it was written, what the songwriter called it, and how it affected him. This book is full of those types of gems.
The book's tag line is "The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best Kept Secret". The poster for the movie version, made by the son of one of the musicians central to The Wrecking Crew, has a full paragraph backing up the title. But since the songs are the real stars of this story, I'd tag the movie with something like "The Inside Story Behind Your Favorite Songs." That doesn't shortchange the musicians who people that inside story, but it highlights the work product which is their lasting legacy.
Very interesting material, but written and performed as though for sixth graders. A list of these musicians' works would be a welcome addition.
Avid Listener of books at 1-1/2 times the normal speed. Trying to make up for all those boring high school teachers that could not reach me.
The information of the different bands was fascinating and a real eye opener to the music business in the 60's and 70's. Interesting to find out who controlled the business and the caliber of musicians at that time.
Me the Mob and the music by Tommy James although a different story, studio muscicians played a huge roll in the outcome of the music.
I will view all my rock idols differently after listening to this book. Especially the Beach Boys.
Great listen for anyone interested in rock history. I wish I could see the film that was made about the same group of musicians. Check out Carol Kaye on utube.
I can remember when and where I heard all the songs mentioned in this book. What astounds and amazes me is the fact that they were all done by essentially the same band! The singers may have changed but the band remained the same.
I now have a folder of music on my MP3 players entitled "The Wrecking Crew" which contains songs I know they played on. Just about everyone who has listened to it loves it, including kids who were born a quarter century after the demise of The Wrecking Crew. I've had to compile a printed playlist of my folder because so many people ask me for one. I wish the author would compile a definitive list for us if he'd be so kind because he has access to contracts and other documents.
Now this is the kind of popular culture history I love. A thorough overview of 60s-70s popular music and why we loved it. Who knew? Nobody, and that's how they wanted it. Just enough detail to put together an interesting story but not so much as to bore.
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