The Wrecking Crew

The Kinks made an homage to session musicians once called ‘Session Man’. It goes like this:

He never will forget at all.
The day he played at the Albert Hall.
A million sessions ago it seems.
He is a session man.
A chord progression.
A top musician.

Rock ‘n’ roll or vocal star.
A philharmonic orchestra.
Everything comes the same to him.
He is a session man.
A chord progression.
A top musician.

He’s not paid to think, just play.
A session man.
A session man.
A session man.
Playing at a different studio every day.

He reads the dots and plays each line.
And always finishes on time.
No overtime nor favors done.
He is a session man.
A chord progression.
A top musician.

He’s not paid to think, just play.
A session man.
A session man.
A session man.

This song could be, but is not, about The Wrecking Crew, which was a loose collective of continuously rotating session musicians from Los Angeles in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. The collective formed the basis for thousands of studio recordings of the most memorable classics of the era.

The son of one of them – Tommy Tedesco – made a documentary about these session men (and woman, or one at least: Carol Kaye, the greatest bass player in the world according to Brain Wilson). If a band was in need of inspired rock ‘n roll musicians in this period, they called The Wrecking Crew, a sort of Winston Wolf for bands in trouble.

But didn’t musicians play their music themselves? Apparently not. Tedesco is the most recorded guitarist in history and nobody outside the music industry has ever heard of him. He and the others played for The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Frank Sinatra, The Ronettes, The Supremes, Barbara Streisand, The Byrds, Ricky Nelson, Jan & Dean, The Crystals, Phil Spector, The Teddy Bears, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Sam Cooke, The Diamonds, The Platters, Captain & Tennille, The Righteous Brothers, Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman, Dean Martin and many more…

The Wrecking Crew could play way better than the bands themselves. Brian Wilson, lead man of The Beach Boys wanted to push his music to the next level and for that he enlisted the best players of L.A. Most of The Beach Boys records of the 1960’s don’t even feature any of the actual band members. Same goes for The Monkees. In the documentary, the ‘drummer’ of The Monkees actually says that he didn’t consider himself a musician at all, but more an actor. The producers gave him drumming lessons for a year, so he was able to drum himself at their live gigs.

The session musicians never received credits for their work, but you don’t have to feel too sorry for them. They loved what they did and they made loads of money. But in the end, this was a phase that blew over. The bands learned to play themselves and the public wanted bands that could play themselves. As for Tedesco? He went on playing music for another major L.A. business: the movies.

10 New Beatles Insights Through Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’

‘It would be fair to say that today ‘Let It Be’ symbolizes the breaking-up of the Beatles. That’s the mythology, the truth is somewhat different. The real story of ‘Let It Be’ has been locked in the vaults of Apple Corps for the last 50 years.’

So says director Peter Jackson in the ‘Get Back’ book that accompanied his eight hour lasting documentary on Disney Plus.

Jackson’s film fills in a lot of missing puzzle pieces in the story of the world’s most discussed band. Not for nothing are basically all Beatles Wikipedia-pages re-edited with new information from the previously unseen footage. For me personally, the documentary was a real eye opener. It gave me the following new insights into the legendary group and my favorite musicians of all time. The order of the insights is completely arbitrary.

1. George spontaneously quit the band
After George leaves, which for me seemed to happen completely out of the blue, John considers replacing him with Eric Clapton who had just left Cream. Was he serious? Maybe. Of course they really wanted George back…

2. There was little conflict
Despite George leaving, there was little conflict. At least nothing dramatic. Of course they had frequent discussions and they were obviously uncertain about how they should proceed and evolve from that stage on, but major fights and arguments? There weren’t any.

3. Yoko is just a wallflower
A persistent rumor about this period of The Beatles was that John constantly bringing Yoko to the studio was a major source of tension within the group. This doesn’t appear to be the case. She is always there, but she hardly speaks. Just once in a while she plays some experimental music. Besides, the other guys bring their girlfriends along as well constantly, especially Paul, but it doesn’t distract from the creative process at all.

4. Many of the later songs were already being written here
During the ‘Get Back’ sessions, they played many early versions of songs that would later appear on ‘Abbey Road’ (their final album) and solo albums. These songs include: I want you (she’s so heavy), Polythene Pam, Teddy Boy, Her Majesty, Hot As Son, Isn’t It a Pity, Something, Octopus’ Garden, Jealous Guy, Sitting in the Backseat of my Car, Gimme Some Truth, She Came in Through My Bedroom Window, Another Day, All Things Must Pass, Oh Darling, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Every Day, Carry That Weight and Sun King.

5. Much of the creative process is just goofing around
By this time, their full time job was just coming to the studio and composing amazing music. They did so by fooling around much of the time. They know literally hundreds of songs and played them constantly. The documentary also shows the almost telepathic connection between Lennon and McCartney. And an observation by Jackson is that Lennon found a new partner in Yoko Ono and this is visibly painful for McCartney. But he accepts it and deals with it.

6. Jealous Guy had a different title and different lyrics first
Jealous Guy – one of Lennon’s great solo songs (B-side of Imagine) – was first called On the Road to Marrakesh. Apparently, John wrote this in India, then it was rejected for ‘The White Album’ and here he plays it during the sessions at Twickenham Studios.

7. Paul is a great manager as John takes a back seat
In the early days of The Beatles, John was sort of the bandleader. During the ‘Get Back’ sessions, it is Paul. He does so in an inspiring way. He wants to go for the best possible results and doesn’t get pushy or annoying. He is just trying to keep the band going and eventually, they get really going.

8. The album ‘Let It Be Naked’ is much better than the original
‘Let It Be’ was up until now my least favorite album by The Beatles. This changed when I heard the Naked-version which was released in 2003. This made me realize what a messed up job Phil Spector did with the material on the 1970 original version. And why did he exclude Don’t Let Me Down? A fucked up decision. The Naked-version is true to the original vision of the group to strip their music down. All of the twelve songs sound amazing. This is an album truly worthy of this brilliant band.

9. One After 909 is one of their early songs
I never appreciated this song much, but thanks to the documentary I started loving it and I now play it constantly. It is an early song which John wrote while he was just 15. Paul is very pleased with it as well. The lyrics are about nothing, but what does it matter? It just sounds really really good.

10. There were ideas for a different ‘The End’
During the film and in the many transcribed conversations in the books, the boys and original documentary maker, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, were constantly trying to come up with an idea for a live performance to conclude the ‘Get Back’ project. Of course this ends up being the famous rooftop concert – The Beatles last live gig ever – but there were many ideas before that. The best one was Paul’s. He proposed a live show with news men in between songs bringing the latest news. And at the end of the show, the final bulletin is… ‘The Beatles have broken up!’

5 Best Paul McCartney Solo Albums

Of the four Beatles, Paul McCartney has been arguably the most versatile and successful solo-artist. Yes, John Lennon had a lot less time since he died in 1980. Who knows what he would have produced hadn’t he been murdered? Of his output as a solo artist, especially his first two albums were great (‘Plastic Ono Band’ and ‘Imagine’), but after that the quality somewhat declined. George Harrison, same story. ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘Living in the Material World’ were brilliant, but the rest of his albums are far less memorable.

McCartney also peaked after the Beatles, but he continued to make great albums right up until his latest gem ‘McCartney III’. Below are the five albums he made post-Beatles that I love the most.

5. Venus and Mars

Recorded in New Orleans and released in 1975, this was the fourth studio-album McCartney released with his band Wings, and his sixth album after the Beatles-break-up. It is a sort of concept-album and features a number of beautiful compositions: the title-track that returns later (much like St. Peppers), ‘Rock Show’, ‘You Gave Me the Answer’, ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’, and ‘Listen to What the Man Said’. The album was a huge success. It reached number 1 in the US, the UK and other countries around the world (as did the single ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ in the US) and sold four million copies worldwide.

4. McCartney

His first album after the break-up in 1970 – which had a lot to do with the tension within the disintegrating band – was not received very well. John Lennon was one of the main critics. I think it contains a number of terrific songs, some of Beatles-level greatness. This makes sense since they were written during the band’s golden years: ‘Junk’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Every Night’, ‘That Would Be Something’ are the best. Yes, the album is underproduced, but this gives it some of its charm. McCartney basically performed the whole album by himself and recorded it in secrecy. It is the perfect showcase for his amazing talent.

3. Band on the Run

Generally considered as the highlight of Wings’ output. It opens with the classic title track about McCartney’s search for freedom. ‘Band on the Run’ consists of three parts that form a perfect integrated composition. This is pure McCartney. There are only eight more songs on the album, but they are all beautiful. The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, by a trio consisting of Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. The rest of the band had left. No matter, the final result was generally praised and it became a huge commercial success. Look out for actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee on the album’s cover.

2. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

This 2005 masterpiece re-establishes McCartney as one of the greatest living musicians/songwriters. It took 18 months to make and Paul once again plays most of the instruments, like he did on his first album McCartney. The 13 songs are unusually reflective and intimate-sounding for the ex-Beatle, which is a good thing. They are all great, but my favorites are: ‘Fine Line’, ‘Jenny Wren’, ‘Friends to Go’ (dedicated to George Harrison), ‘A Certain Softness’ and ‘Follow Me’. The cover is from a photograph of McCartney strumming a guitar in his family’s backyard in Liverpool, taken by Paul’s brother Mike.

1. Ram

‘Ram’ is the only album credited to the husband-and-wife music duo Paul and Linda McCartney. It is a terrific collection of extremely enjoyable songs, like: ‘Too Many People’, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ (Paul’s first number 1 hit in America without the Beatles), ‘Ram On’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’. The recording sessions also yielded the terrific non-album single ‘Another Day’. ‘Ram’, very much like Paul’s debut album ‘McCartney’, initially received unfavourable reaction from music journalists, but has since been recognized as one of Paul’s best efforts as a solo musician.

Paul, thanks for all your terrific output. It is impossible for me to describe how much your music means to me personally.

Read also:
The Beatles: Reunion Project
The White Album Compressed
Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke
My 10 Favourite Beatles Songs