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BOOK REPORT: THE WRECKING CREW by KENT HARTMAN
You may not know who The Wrecking Crew were… but you know their work, and a ton of the tunes they played on. Kent Hartman’s new biography attempts to tell the tale of the loose confederacy of L.A.-based musicians who played on the masterpiece recordings of modern music produced by the likes of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, and many others. The book just came out last week, and its timing is intriguing - various members of the group have been in the news lately:
Glen Campbell, who left the studio to strike out on his solo career, and was recently honored at the Grammys
Mike Melvoin, keyboardist and arranger, just passed away this week. His son was Jonathan Melvoin, the Smashing Pumpkins member who died from a heroin overdose. Mike played on tunes as varied as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. 
Today’s news brings word that Billy Strange also passed away. Billy was a phenomenal guitar player known for his work on Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, and as co-writer of Elvis’ "A Little Less Conversation"
The Wrecking Crew book has one inherent flaw due to the nature of its subject: nobody really knew who all the members were. It wasn’t a formal group, more of a nickname for a group of players who began to find themselves in demand for more and more recording sessions in Los Angeles. The list of song titles at the bottom of this post are the chapters of the book, and are a great indicator of how varied the tunes they played on.
The forementioned flaw means the book doesn’t go too far in depth on a lot of people. What it lacks in depth, though, it makes up for in an astonishing amount of fantastic rock and roll stories. Some of the highlights for me were: learning about Creed Bratton (as in Creed from “The Office”) and his time spent playing in The Grass Roots, including a hilarious story about a gig at the Fillmore West. The terribly sad tale of drummer extraordinaire Jim Gordon, whose piano coda for Layla is simply one of the most gorgeous pieces of music ever written. The late Billy Strange has a great story told about how a piece he composed entitled Monotonous Melody became the dance craze known as Limbo Rock.
If you’re looking for a rock book that will shock you with how much you didn’t know about the music you love, get The Wrecking Crew. It’ll learn you about a slew of the greatest musicians you’ve already heard… but maybe not heard of.
Footnotes: chapters in The Wrecking Crew are song titles they played on…
California Dreamin’
Limbo Rock
He’s A Rebel
The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)
What’d I Say
I Got You, Babe
Mr. Tambourine Man
River Deep, Mountain High
Eve of Destruction
Strangers in the Night
Good Vibrations
Let’s Live for Today
Up, Up and Away
Classical Gas
Wichita Lineman
MacArthur Park
Bridge Over Troubled Water
(They Long To Be) Close To You
Love Will Keep Us Together

BOOK REPORT: THE WRECKING CREW by KENT HARTMAN

You may not know who The Wrecking Crew were… but you know their work, and a ton of the tunes they played on. Kent Hartman’s new biography attempts to tell the tale of the loose confederacy of L.A.-based musicians who played on the masterpiece recordings of modern music produced by the likes of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, and many others. The book just came out last week, and its timing is intriguing - various members of the group have been in the news lately:

  • Glen Campbell, who left the studio to strike out on his solo career, and was recently honored at the Grammys
  • Mike Melvoin, keyboardist and arranger, just passed away this week. His son was Jonathan Melvoin, the Smashing Pumpkins member who died from a heroin overdose. Mike played on tunes as varied as the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life.
  • Today’s news brings word that Billy Strange also passed away. Billy was a phenomenal guitar player known for his work on Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, and as co-writer of Elvis’ "A Little Less Conversation"

The Wrecking Crew book has one inherent flaw due to the nature of its subject: nobody really knew who all the members were. It wasn’t a formal group, more of a nickname for a group of players who began to find themselves in demand for more and more recording sessions in Los Angeles. The list of song titles at the bottom of this post are the chapters of the book, and are a great indicator of how varied the tunes they played on.

The forementioned flaw means the book doesn’t go too far in depth on a lot of people. What it lacks in depth, though, it makes up for in an astonishing amount of fantastic rock and roll stories. Some of the highlights for me were: learning about Creed Bratton (as in Creed from “The Office”) and his time spent playing in The Grass Roots, including a hilarious story about a gig at the Fillmore West. The terribly sad tale of drummer extraordinaire Jim Gordon, whose piano coda for Layla is simply one of the most gorgeous pieces of music ever written. The late Billy Strange has a great story told about how a piece he composed entitled Monotonous Melody became the dance craze known as Limbo Rock.

If you’re looking for a rock book that will shock you with how much you didn’t know about the music you love, get The Wrecking Crew. It’ll learn you about a slew of the greatest musicians you’ve already heard… but maybe not heard of.

Footnotes: chapters in The Wrecking Crew are song titles they played on…

  1. California Dreamin’
  2. Limbo Rock
  3. He’s A Rebel
  4. The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)
  5. What’d I Say
  6. I Got You, Babe
  7. Mr. Tambourine Man
  8. River Deep, Mountain High
  9. Eve of Destruction
  10. Strangers in the Night
  11. Good Vibrations
  12. Let’s Live for Today
  13. Up, Up and Away
  14. Classical Gas
  15. Wichita Lineman
  16. MacArthur Park
  17. Bridge Over Troubled Water
  18. (They Long To Be) Close To You
  19. Love Will Keep Us Together