Strictly considered, writing about music is as illogical as singing about economics.
– February 9, 1918 in the New Republic
…because I truly believe — honest — that writing about music is, as Martin Mull put it, like dancing about architecture.
– “Time Barrier Express”, September-October 1979 profile of the group Sam & Dave by Gary Sperrazza
What analogy would you use when someone writes about movies. That are about music. Thanks for playing.
When rock’n’roll began its mid twentieth century push-back against jazz and classical music, its raw and unstudied simplicity and racier lyric content galled the elders of the day. Wasn’t Lovin’ Sam-Sheik of Alabam’ their Rock Around the Clock?
Mozart’s hummable melodies made his the “pop” music of his day and his contemporaries also bridled. Can you hum one of his rivals’ tunes? Something that makes you think of a special someone or a spring day or that Little GTO?
A song can be evocative and so personal yet generate profits like no other industry.
How does a hit song do that? It’s usually fun and happy. Or sad. At least catchy. Sometimes brainless, most times brainless. One listener’s tired “miss you/kiss you” couplet is another’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. Amazon gets its suggestions for what you’d like wrong every time, so how to churn up the sonic alchemy needed to make us press “download”?
A hot shot posse of L.A. session musicians effortlessly provided that kind of musical moxie for hundreds of hits in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s while pulling down good union wages. Dubbed The Wrecking Crew, this eponymous documentary is a family album style reminiscence of the studio stalwarts behind the American West Coast record label golden age. In comfortable and homey interviews we’re regaled with tales of the eccentricities of the artists they supported and the business they were part of. From producers with no feel for rock’n’roll to songwriting geniuses whose work they helped augment. Some players had formidable jazz backgrounds but didn’t allow elitism to get in the way of envigorating a huge part of our heritage. Director Denny Tedesco‘s father Tommy Tedesco was the guitar player of choice on most of the call sheets. He and his cohorts honestly loved the music they were part of and fondly remember a great time and a great way to make a living.
Warmly informative, its pedestrian better-late-than-never quality can be forgiven as Tommy passed away in 1997. The film actively languished after its 2008 premiere as Denny sought the music rights for wider distribution and eventual DVD release. Open secret that they were in the industry, the Wrecking Crew’s heyday isn’t known to fans still transported by the music. And apparently anyone else trying to replicate Chuck Berghofer‘s bass line to These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ gets it wrong every time.
Though it obviously sits with other behind-the-scenes music films like Muscle Shoals and 20 Feet From Stardom, this film’s more appropriately bookended with the recent documentary about Esquire magazine Smiling Through the Apocalypse. Both made by sons about larger-than-life fathers who were part of a cultural sea change and SMTA may be a touch more discerning and insightful.
So. Writing about movies about music is like… something about a fish… or maybe geometry and Pro-Tools… with a string section… and Marxism…
DVD Release Date: 6/16/15