It’s Only Rock n Roll— But I Like It

3 Mar

For the most part I subscribe to the notion that reading (and writing) about music is like dancing to architecture. And, as far as reading about musicians, I haven’t find many interesting enough to invite scrutinizing their lives (the last musician whose biography I read was the excellent oral bio of Warren Zevon by his ex-wife).

Kent Hartman”s THE WRECKING CREW The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.) did interest me enough for a quick perusal that turned into a full reading. Most importantly, for me, it confirms my early choice of R& B as the sound track of my youth— essentially as I dismissed most pop musicians as studio creations whose best and perhaps only talent usually was possessing nice hair.

As you might know I(or should know) Motown, had its Funk Brothers and music centers like Memphis, Muscle Shoals and so on, each had a core of hit making back up bands.

The Wrecking Crew (so-called) was the vanilla, Los Angeles version of a tight clique of local studio musicians who were more or less (and after reading the book, its clear it was frequently more) attached to a very large amount of hit recordings for the better part of two decades (late 50’s to the mid 70’s). Masterful players unknown to the record buying public ( except for Glen Campbell) who created records for the likes of the Monkees, The Beach Boys, The Association, The Grass Roots and so forth.

Hartmann has done well to collect engrossing anecdotes about musical personalities from Brian Wilson to Phil Spector to Glenn Campbell and Hal Blaine. and weave them into an annotated discography of mid century pop music. My favorite story has Don Peake, Ray Charles’s guitarist (and the only white person in Charles’s band) avoiding mayhem at the hands of some Alabama State troopers, posing (at Ray’s suggestion) as a Latino, mumbling Spanish sounding gibberish.

Janet Maslin observes:

The Wrecking Crew was informal and had many members. Stars of the Wrecking Crew played on so many songs that they themselves haven’t all kept close track. It would take a whole other book to trace their individual trajectories. (There are other books. Mr. Hartman draws heavily on volumes about both Mr. Blaine and Mr. Spector.) But “The Wrecking Crew” does its job of commemorating studio heroics. It makes good music sound better.

Currently reading Uncanny Valley by Lawrence Weschler(Counterpoint)

One Response to “It’s Only Rock n Roll— But I Like It”


  1. Monday’s Margins: The Power of Introverts, Nabokov, Writers’ Doubt | Identity Theory - March 5, 2012

    […] (and writing) about music is like dancing to architecture.” -Robert Birnbaum on Kent Hartman’s The Wrecking Crew More posts of […]

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