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!’

LENNONYC

Wat is er na The Beatles? Deze documentaire beantwoordt deze vraag voor ex-Beatle John Lennon. Het antwoord: New York City waar John na het uit elkaar gaan van The Beatles in 1969 ging wonen met zijn vrouw Yoko Ono.

John dook hier al weer snel de studio’s waar hij een aantal bijzondere muzikale prestaties afleverde. Iedereen kent het fabuleuze ‘Imagine’, maar hij schreef ook liedjes als ‘Woman is the Nigger of the World’ over de positie van vrouwen in die tijd (en die wat mij betreft nog steeds belabberd is).

Ook sloten hij en Ono zich aan bij de activistenbeweging die was opgestaan tegen de oorlogszuchtige regeringen van die tijd.

Toen Lennon en Ono ‘John Sinclair’ speelde voor een jongen die tot tien jaar cel was veroordeeld voor het bezit van twee joints werd Sinclair vrijgelaten. Toen wisten de activisten het zeker: John Lennon moeten we in ons kamp hebben. Hij kan miljoenen mensen bereiken. Ze wilden wereldvrede en dachten dit te kunnen bereiken. Alles leek toen mogelijk.

Maar Richard Nixon wilde de ex-Beatle het land uithebben en daarvoor gebruikte hij een oude veroordeling voor hasj-bezit. De strategie die John hanteerde om in de VS te blijven was het geven van benefietconcerten.

Toen Nixon werd herkozen in 1972 ging Lennon in de depressieve bui die daarop volgde vreemd. Ono kickte hem er toen uit en John ging naar L.A. waar hij met een groep vrienden, zoals Keith Moon en Harry Nilsson, van het leven genoot. Ook Ringo Starr en Paul McCartney kwamen langs en ze waren weer vrienden als vanouds.

Maar John leverde nog steeds gevechten tegen zijn eigen demonen. Hij dronk veel en gebruikte veel drugs en de reden daarvoor was, volgens zijn vrienden, dat hij diep van binnen niet gelukkig was.

Hij schreef ook in zijn tijd in L.A. mooie muziek met het album ‘Mind Games’ als hoogtepunt. In 1973, na ‘Mind Games’ begon hij met beroemd producer Phil Spector aan een rock & roll album. De opnamen werden een gekkenhuis met 28 doorgedraaide muzikanten. John dronk steeds meer en kreeg ruzie met Spector. Een vriend van hem belde Yoko Ono en zei; ‘je moet komen. Hij drinkt zich dood.’

Maar Yoko kwam niet en John bleef drinken. Steeds als hij heel dronken werd riep hij Yoko’s naam. “Ik had iemand nodig die van me hield”, aldus Lennon die op jonge leeftijd zijn moeder Julia verloor. In deze dronken periode werd hij één keer bijna door een menigte opgezwollen. Twee vrienden konden hem nog net op tijd in een auto gooien.

Uiteindelijk keerde hij toch terug in New York, waar hij een song deed met Elton John samen. Het werd een nummer 1 hit. (‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’). Vervolgens trad Lennon op als gastartiest bij een concert van Elton John (zijn laatste live optreden) en kreeg hij de grootste ovatie die misschien wel ooit iemand gehad heeft. “Het leek op een aardbeving”, aldus Elton John. En toen kwam hij weer bij Yoko Ono terug…

Kort daarop gebeurde twee fijne dingen in zijn leven; hij kreeg een verblijfsvergunning en een zoontje Sean. Hij besloot het rustiger aan te gaan doen. In de woorden van Ono: “Hij had de hele wereld afgereisd en vond dat hij nu met pensioen kon gaan en een lieve papa kon worden.”

In 1980 – hét jaar – werkte hij met Ono samen aan de ‘Double Fantasy’ sessies. Hij zong hierin hoe hij zich echt voelde en het was dit keer geen drugs en rock & roll meer. John Lennon was een oprecht artiest. Hij was altijd eerlijk, soms op het botte af. Ook nu zijn leven minder rock & roll was durfde hij dat te uiten. Hij was terug bij zijn vrouw, had een kind en alles was goed…