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Denny Tedesco's Top Ten Wrecking Crew Songs

Alan Bryson By

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In his All About Jazz interview, documentary filmmaker Denny Tedesco mentioned he had acquired the rights to over one hundred songs to use in his documentary film The Wrecking Crew. The film deals with the history of the studio and session musicians in '60s Los Angeles. After the interview we asked him to do the near impossible and come up with a Top Ten list for us. Denny obliged...



1. Nancy Sinatra: "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"
From Single (Reprise, 1966)

The song was written and produced by Lee Hazlewood who told Nancy Sinatra to sing the song as if she were a teenager who turns tricks at a truck stop. Wrecking Crew guitarist Billy Strange did the arrangement and used Carol Kaye on electric bass and Chuck Berghofer on double bass. Six guitarists are credited on this song. It went to #1 in the U.S. and the U.K.



2. Glen Campbell Name: "Wichita Lineman"
From Wichita Lineman (Capitol, 1968)

Written by Jimmy Webb, this extraordinary song went to #3 on the U.S. pop charts and to #1 on the country music and the adult contemporary charts. Glen Campbell was of course a top session guitarist with the Wrecking Crew before he became a solo artist.



3. The 5th Dimension: "Up, Up and Away"
From Up, Up and Away (Soul City, 1967)

Another Jimmy Webb song! It won four Grammy awards in 1967 including song and record of the year.



4. The Byrds: "Mr. Tambourine Man"
From Mr. Tambourine Man (Columbia, 1965)

There's a lot of interesting trivia related to this song. It was written by Bob Dylan and recorded by only one of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, who was backed by the Wrecking Crew. This was at the insistence of the producer, Terry Melcher—who was the son of Doris Day. When Charles Manson sent his "family" on a killing spree, it was to instill fear into Terry Melcher, but that's another story... This was actually the first song by Bob Dylan to reach #1, which it did in both the U.S. and the U.K.



5. Paul Simon: "Bridge over Troubled Water"
From Bridge over Troubled Water (Columbia, 1970)

A huge worldwide hit by Simon & Garfunkel that won the Grammy awards in 1971 for record and song of the year.



6. Frank Sinatra: "Strangers in the Night"
From Strangers in the Night (Reprise, 1966)

Another Grammy record of the year, and Sinatra received the award for best male pop vocal performance—even for Sinatra that was no easy task at that time when you consider the competition.



7. The Ronettes: "Be My Baby"
From Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (Philles, 1964)

Veronica Yvette Bennett is better known to us as Ronnie Spector (she later married producer Phil Spector.) In terms of pop records, this is about as good as it gets, Brian Wilson considers it the greatest pop single of all time. Spector's wall of sound technique is on full display, and in three short beats Hal Blaine demonstrates why he is so revered as a session drummer.



8. Elvis Presley: "A Little Less Conversation"
From Almost In Love (RCA, 1968)

This song was written written by Mac Davis and Wrecking Crew guitarist Billy Strange for an Elvis film. It was a minor hit. Then it was used in the 2001 film Ocean's Eleven and later remixed by the Dutch musician Tom Holkenborg, better known as Junkie XL. This remix became a huge global hit, reaching #1 in twenty countries.



9. Richard Harris: "MacArthur Park"
From A Tramp Shining (Record Dunhill, 1968)

Jimmy Webb strikes again! A hit song that was over seven minutes long. In fact, according to the L.A. Times the song was written for the group The Association, "whose members had promptly rejected it because of its length, complex structure, and unorthodox lyrics." Famously the British actor Richard Harris sang it, backed by the Wrecking Crew.



10. The Beach Boys: "Good Vibrations"
From Single (Capitol, 1966)

This single took eight months to record and cost more than the entire album Smile. There are reports that Brian Wilson, who wrote the music, had considered giving the song to Wilson Pickett, or another R&B artist—actually, that seems like it too would have worked. Imagine Wilson Pickett with an electro-theremin! This song made clear that Brian Wilson was much more than the leader of a surf music group—unquestionably one of the most iconic songs in '60s pop history.

Share some of your own favorite recordings by the Wrecking Crew in the comments section.

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