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.

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Back in the U.S.S.R. – het door Paul McCartney geschreven openingsnummer van het Beatles album ‘The Beatles’ (aka ‘The White Album’) is een briljante parodie op de muziek van The Beach Boys. Deze Amerikaanse popgroep met aanstekelijke hits als Surfin’ U.S.A. en Good Vibrations hadden er een handje van om Amerika te verheerlijken. In Back in the U.S.S.R. zingt McCartney hoe blij hij als Russische reiziger is die thuiskomt en blij is zijn geboortegrond, de Georgische bergen en de charme van de Russische vrouwen weer te zien.

Mike Love, de zanger van The Beach Boys verbleef met The Beatles in Rishikesh. Hij herinnerde zich: ‘Ik zat aan de ontbijttafel; McCartney kwam naar beneden met zijn akoestische gitaar en speelde ‘Back in the U.S.S.R. Ik zei tegen hem dat hij het eigenlijk moest hebben over alle meisjes uit Rusland, Oekraïne en Georgië.’ Paul verwerkte dit in het geweldige Beach Boys-stijl refrein:

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out.
They leave the West behind.
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout.
That Georgia’s always on my mind.

Een song over hoe fijn het was om terug te keren naar de Sovjet-Unie, was in 1968 behoorlijk riskant: midden in de Koude Oorlog stond men afkeurend tegenover vriendschappelijk banden met de Sovjet-Unie. Sommigen noemden The Beatles anti-Amerikaans, waarop John Lennon met zijn gebruikelijke ironie antwoordde: ‘Dat klopt helemaal, maar we zijn geen Amerikanen…’

Bron: The Beatles Compleet (Jean Michel Guesdon & Philippe Margotin)

back-in-the-u-s-s-r-1
De Amerikaanse president Frank Underwood doet zijn Russische ambtgenoot Petrov een
surfboard cadeau waarop staat ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ — House of CardsSeizoen 3.