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Thread July 25, 2015 editorial: comments

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1 July 25, 2015 editorial: comments

Wrecked by the Wrecking Crew?

Have you seen the Wrecking Crew movie? It’s an amazing documentary about the group of studio musicians in L.A. who played on a huge amount of pop records in the ’60’s and ’70s, including the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Turtles Happy Together, the Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man, and many others. They also played the instruments on the Monkees huge hit album,The Monkees.

They were the first call of L.A. studio players, and included a number of future stars including Dr. John, Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, as well as legendary musicians like Jim Keltner, James Burton, and Jim Gordon.

The Wrecking Crew has been called “the best kept secret of rock ’n' roll,” because their brilliant contributions were largely unknown to the general public (although there were rampant rumors that the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments).

It wasn’t just L.A. where this type of thing occurred. Muscle Shoals had “The Swampers”, Stax records had Booker T. and the M.G.s. Back then producers were king, and they used who they wanted when it was time to record the instrumental tracks on an album. Understandably, they chose musicians they knew and trusted.

For the most part, the artists benefited from having such talented players on their albums, but there were surely plenty of musicians who spent years playing with a singer or a band and then got shut out playing on the album (or albums). For example, Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine has said that Byrds drummer Michael Clarke was very unhappy that Blaine supplanted him on the huge hit Mr. Tambourine Man.

Today, the recording industry is very different. Production is no longer as centralized in large commercial studios, and musicians generally get to play their own tracks. The lone exception is Nashville. Probably because major studios have managed to hang in there better than in New York and L.A., a small group of “A list” studio musicians still play on many of the big Nashville records. They’re highly skilled musicians who can nail amazing parts on the first take consistently.

While I’m glad there’s an area where session musicians are still thriving (in NY and LA, session work has taken a nosedive in recent years), I’ve always thought that relying on a small group of musicians to play on a big percentage of albums tends to homogenize the music scene, no matter how good the players are. I think it was true with the Wrecking Crew, and is true now with the first-call Nashville players. 

I also put myself in the shoes of a band member who’s faithfully toured with a band or artist for years, and when the opportunity to record a major album finally happens, is shut out of the process, like Michael Clarke was. I would hate if that happened to me. 

Wouldn’t you?

Yes, it DOES suck for that to happen. Over my 40 year career I had it happen 4 times, but in the end I was the one on tour, doing what I loved AND getting paid for it, so it was really a win-win situation IMHO.

As for all the tracks sounding the same, the Wrecking Crew, booker T, and a lot of others that were the “staples” of the studio music scene back then had 1 advantage, they were at least CREATIVE! Tho a LOT of the stuff was in the same vein, it was different enough in feel & groove that it felt different, even if the chord progressions WERE the same.

How many ways can a I-IV-V be played? A zillion & counting.....:-p

The modern “music” coming out of Nashville could be done with loops & duct tape...it ALL sounds the same to a lot of us, to the point that there is NO difference between Live Musicians there vs. the “rap crap” looper’s that just steal others work, loop 4 bars, and then put a tuned singer on top of it and have a hit.:|

Bitter? Not in the least, EVERY generation says their music was the best & most creative,:bravo: I am just grateful I got to play & live mine..;)..and the variety of styles I had to learn & play correctly proves that, at least in MY situation, playing originals & 50‘s thru mid 80‘s Rock & Country WAS a golden era of creativity that will never be repeated, because the live player is a thing of the past in the recording/radio world....:8)
It has occurred to me that there are fewer years ahead than there are behind....
Bitter? Not in the least, EVERY generation says their music was the best & most creative,:bravo: I am just grateful I got to play & live mine..;)

That's the right attitude to take! :bravo:
The modern “music” coming out of Nashville could be done with loops & duct tape...it ALL sounds the same to a lot of us

Well, the music is very formulaic (the commercial country, that is, not the alt country, which is generally awesome). Nevertheless, the studio players who are first call in Nashville are superb musicians. In fact, the overall quality of musicianship in Nashville is quite astounding, IMHO.
History of the Music of the Wrecking Crew , The MGs , Swampers , Motown Funk Band was a great time of the music biz when there was a biz for artists to tour or record at least it was a way for Bands to have hope . Now is there really not to much to look forward to do with great music that is recorded today .
at least it was a way for Bands to have hope

I know what you're saying, but there are still opportunities for bands if they can build themselves up organically — by touring and developing a following from the ground up. I know of bands that have done that and then got record deals. For sure, it's not like it used to be. But it's also more democratic than it used to be. Those who are good and willing to work really hard can still make a name for themselves.

[ Post last edited on 11/17/2015 at 14:07:41 ]