I blogged previously about the Wrecking Crew documentary. Last night at the Mill Valley Film Festival I saw it again with my little family and a friend of ours, a musician about my age. It was every bit as good as I remember it being. There was a Q&A with Denny Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Don Randi, and Chuck Berghofer.
Blaine is the drummer who has played on more number one hit records than any musician in history. Don Randi is one of the pianists from the Wrecking Crew, and Berghofer is the bass player who did that iconic running bass line on These Boots Are Made for Walking.
The big treat was the concert after the show. We headed over to the Throckmorton Theater and were treated to a once in a life time concert. A convincing “wall of sound” was provided by a crew of excellent local musicians, and these three living legends added themselves to the band as the concert unfolded. That would have been worth my money right there, but they also brought in some special guests. Bud E. Love sang and then played drums. Then Dan Hicks (and his Hot Licks) joined the band for a really cool version of “Everybody’s Talkin’”.
But when Hal Blaine, who had looked unsteady on his feet at the screening, sat down at the drum set and picked up those sticks, magic happened. The singers from Big Bang Beat, a well-established Bay Area rock band, joined in to sing Be My Baby. When Blaine launched in with that drum beat there was that sound! Hal Blaine was playing the drums right there in the same room I was in, and it sounded just like Hal Blaine drumming! I think I wept through most of that song it was so amazing. Heck, I’m getting choked up right now just writing about it. They were joined on the Sam Cooke tune, Twistin’ the Night Away, by a sort of dorky little silver-haired guy singing with the backup singers on that number – he could clearly sing, but didn’t dance like the ladies. I wondered who the heck he was. I soon found out.
Many drummers look like they’re working hard – mostly because they are. Blaine made it look effortless, like he could do it all day. Which, in fact, he has done, thousands of times. And he was rock solid, completely at the top of his game. All night.
Don Randi’s son and daughter joined in as vocalists, including, natch, “Boots”. Yes, Berghofer can still play that running bass line. What a treat to hear him play it live.
And then they brought out another surprize guest: Peter Tork! Guess who. Yes, the dorky background singer. He picked up his guitar and led the band in a really rocking version of Auntie Grizelda. He’s still just as funny as in the Monkees days. Just hard to recognize (NB: This video shows you what he looks like, but that band was wimpy compared to what we heard).
OK, so now we’ve really gotten our money’s worth. They weren’t done. Out came Al Jardine to sing Help Me Rhonda. Blaine sounded just like on the album. Jardine actually hasn’t changed that much. His voice even sounds about the same. My friend and I had to jump in and sing the bass part for the people lucky enough to be sitting in front of us. So now I claim we’ve actually sung with the Beach Boys – since a big percentage of the people actually on the albums were there.
The night ended with Peter Tork leading the whole band in a rousing blues number called Even White Boys Get The Blues. It gave everybody a chance to take a solo and Tork, it turns out, plays a wicked good blues guitar. So there!
If you’re in the Bay Area there’s one more chance to see the film at the MVFF this Saturday (October 11, 2008). Everybody should go to their web site and sign up. If Denny gets enough interest he’ll be able to get distribution, and we can all get DVDs.
Corrected the part about Peter Tork’s background singing. Thanks to Jonny Octane for leaving the comment.
I found a few pictures of the Mill Valley event on Denny’s web site. That’s Peter Tork with his guitar neck almost poking the camera in the eye.