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The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  987 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
Winner of the Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction and Los Angeles Times bestseller

"It makes good music sound better."--Janet Maslin in The New York Times

"A fascinating look into the West Coast recording studio scene of the '60s and the inside story of the music you heard on the radio. If you always assumed the musicians you listened to were the same people y
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published 2012 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Best Non Fiction About Music
137th out of 905 books — 841 voters
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Best Books on Rock and Roll
244th out of 558 books — 962 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,702)
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Dale Stonehouse
May 04, 2012 Dale Stonehouse rated it really liked it
Having read the original magazine article (American Heritage, 2007) and watched the film documentary, I was expecting to enjoy this. Even though different people were highlighted to some extent than in the film, it was still just a very fun read, especially for someone who listened to nearly everything these musicians created. I was glad to see the author mention the studio musicians who worked in New York, Detroit, Memphis and Nashville because their work was and is significant. Drummer Hal Bla ...more
Douglas Hackney
Jun 08, 2012 Douglas Hackney rated it really liked it
I have a friend who was in school in Poland when the Soviet Union collapsed. Soon after, his school received new textbooks. In those new textbooks was a completely new and different retelling of history. Suddenly, overnight, everything that had happened in the 20th century was completely different. In one Orwellian moment, everything he knew was wrong.

If you grew up in the 60's, or have ever hummed along or danced to a pop or rock hit from that era, prepare for an equally jarring re-write of Hi
Jun 16, 2012 Rick rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Pedestrian bit of blown-up magazine journalism intended to celebrate a talented, rotating collection of studio musicians who played on many of the hit singles that emerged from Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. Hartman means well but neither writes well nor benefits much from his research opportunities. There are tons of folks cited for interviews with the author but they seem only to have given him blurbs. Motown’s Funk Brothers played more inventively on more hits than The Wrecking Crew and ...more
Peter Krakow
Sep 21, 2012 Peter Krakow rated it it was ok
Even for a Baby-Boomer Music-Slut like myself, this was a little weak. The author offers up lots of gee-whiz and aw-shucks sentiments and stories, but fails to dig much deeper.

That being said, we're still talking about the studio musicians behind virtually every pop/rock record to come out of LA in the 60's including the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Sonny & Cher, Jan & Dean, the Righteous Brothers, Mama's and Papa's, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Simon and Garfunkle, the Monkees, Phil Spector,
Paul Pessolano
Jan 22, 2015 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
“The Wrecking Crew” by Kent Hartman, published by Thomas Dunne Books.

Category – Media/Music Publication Date – May 21, 2013

If you liked the music of the 60’s and 70’s this is a must read for you. If I told you that groups such as The Beach Boys, The Union Gap, The Monkees, and many more did not do the instrumentals on their recordings you would not believe me, believe me. The instrumentals for hundreds of recordings during this time was done by, “The Wrecking Crew”. The Wrecking Crew were musici
Don Inman
Nov 08, 2015 Don Inman rated it it was amazing
Hi, my name is Don and I'm a music nerd. If you grew up listening to rock and roll in "The Sixties" (I don't like that term it is disingenuous) and you listened to 45 RPM records this is the book for you. It speaks to those of us who ran down to the corner record store on Saturday to buy the newest 45. But we were mislead by the record producers. Did I say mislead? I meant lied to. You see, when you listened to your records the producers wanted you to think that the same band you saw on stage, c ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Monica rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
I heard the author of this book, Kent Hartman, being interviewed on KQRS radio on the way to work one morning a few months ago and he was so interesting and so knowledgeable it made for a great interview. I made a mental note to read the book. I found a $2 copy at a used book sale (not bad, it was just published in Feb. 2012). It was a fun read with a lot of details about hit records primarily of the 1960's that were recorded in Los Angeles. I never realized that so many of the same musicians pl ...more
Jul 16, 2013 Nick rated it really liked it
Four stars because I think the book could have benefited from a stronger editorial hand. Still, this is a fun, thought-provoking read about a poorly understood period. It's about a period where rock music was becoming big business and also becoming "art", but where the recording process was too important to be entrusted to the nominal musicians. The good news was the great recorded legacy, and many of the "replaced" musicians had great careers anyway. And the rise of the rock band artiste/auteur ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Lauri rated it liked it
Very insightful look at the people behind the people who gave us nearly the entire popular music catalog of the 60s and 70s. The Monkees were just the tip of the iceberg, and this book goes into incredible detail about the real backbone behind the music industry of that golden era.

Well worth a read, but I think it dragged a bit in some places. I also think that while I am a big fan of this period of music, it was not as ingrained in me as it was in my father and his generation, so it didn't hav
Jaq Greenspon
I like classic rock. I like the stuff with a good beat, fun lyrics and a makes me want to move. I also like the stuff with a deeper message which reflects the turbulent sixties. It's all great. And the bands whose names are attached to these songs are all well known, or at least passingly familiar, and never fail to bring a wave of nostalgia whenever one of the tunes shows up on the radio or in my iTunes shuffle.

Except for one thing... It wasn't always the band in question playing the instrumen
Jeff Tucker
Jun 10, 2013 Jeff Tucker rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever listened to music by the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, the Carpenters, the Mamas and the Papas, the Association, the Ronettes, Glen Campbell, the 5th Dimension, Simon & Garfunckel and many more, you were listening to music by the Wrecking Crew.
The Wrecking Crew was a loose knit group of professional studio musicians who could read a music score, play it through a couple times and then record it flawlessly in just a couple hours. The record producers in Los Angeles knew they coul
May 17, 2012 Harold rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
I decided to write one review dealing with both “The Wrecking Crew” and “Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew” and post it at each book’s review slot.since both books were so closely related.

The recording industry, up until relatively recent times, supported an elite group of musicians who could create on cue, sight read music and, in short, deliver the goods in the time allowed. In large recording centers like NYC and LA this group could number several hundred musicians who jumped from studio to st
Jun 25, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting read. I have never heard of the 'wrecking crew' and found this bit of Americana info fun. I loved the way Rock and Roll was rooted into music history. This group of talented musicians helped that to happen. I wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did, but I am so glad I read this. I'm also glad that this didn't come across as classroom fodder.
May 02, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
The movie was better. Get the documentary, also called The Wrecking Crew, made by the son of guitarist Tommy Tedesco. After all, don't you want to hear the songs?
Jack Cheng
This was a fun audio book. Essentially a collection of musician origin stories that start with trouble, lead to musical inspiration and then finish with a studio session with the Beach Boys, Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, the Monkees or any number of other California based 1960s bands. The Wrecking Crew were not credited on albums but were the industry's inside secret.

Honestly, there are two things you need to enjoy this book: 1 a tolerance for the somewhat repetitive nature of these stories and 2
Robin Umbley
Jan 11, 2016 Robin Umbley rated it really liked it
The Wrecking Crew is not only a portrait of the hidden musicians behind the music of the '60s and '70s but is also a portrait of the era itself and a culture in transition. I am particularly impressed by the book's organization--in chapters structured around a noteworthy hit song, noteworthy for both the song AND the actions of the musicians themselves. I suppose when you've done considerable research and interviews, the trick to a successful narrative lies in the structure. I'm sure Hartman col ...more
Rob Collier
Sep 24, 2015 Rob Collier rated it it was ok
The book is an easy read, and mildly entertaining, but extremely watered down. Hartman seems to have done a lot of interviews and research for this book, but he uses very little of it in the text. Rather than using direct quotes of the musicians reminiscing about particular sessions, he for some reason decided to narrate the story himself, painting a picture of the events the way he imagined them. There are absolutely no actual quotes from any of the musicians. All of the dialog is Hartman's own ...more
Mar 28, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
For anyone who was swept up in mainstream music of the '60s-mid '70s, this is an enjoyable and informative read. I doubt many of us did know that a fluid group of immensely talented individuals were responsible for the success and popularity of the majority of hit songs that came over the airwaves. It was a very particular time in technology - the period that began when just about everyone had a portable radio (which caused a major surge in hunger for pop songs) and ended when the ability to mul ...more
Dave Schwensen
Mar 09, 2015 Dave Schwensen rated it liked it
The Wrecking Crew exposes everything we were led to believe about our favorite pop-rock stars from the 1960s. The rumors had always been around, that many of the Los Angeles groups didn’t play their own instruments on the records. It attempts to reveal what studio musicians played what instruments on what hit songs.
This is a book for anyone interested in the pop-rock music scene of the 1960’s and early 70’s. Each chapter is entertaining and easy to pick up after breaks to read other books. The
Jun 06, 2014 Martin rated it really liked it
I was almost put off by the unabashed fandom exhibited by the author in the introduction, but I stuck with it and was glad that I did because the stories contained within were terrific portraits of the era, not just in LA but in showbiz across the country. The book initially focuses on Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine but expands its scope to include many other musicians, plus a few closely associated writers and producers. Although equally known for playing on classic Beach Boys songs, ...more
Brian Middleton
Feb 07, 2016 Brian Middleton rated it it was ok
This subject is so fascinating that it would take monumentally atrocious writing to spoil it, and Hartman isn't quite up to the task, though he gives it his best shot. If you are interested in this era and these people, you will wade as I did through the flabby, cliche-ridden prose and enjoy the many bits of fascinating history that Hartman has dug up.

Besides the bad writing, the book suffers from being too much about personalities and inspirational backstories, and not enough about how these b
Feb 16, 2015 Keely rated it really liked it
Ever since I was a teenager, I've loved 50s and 60s music, and pop music history in general, so I had a lot of fun reading this book and re-listening to all the songs featured in it. Before reading, I guess I had some sense that many 60s musical acts were "fronts," just the voices and public face of the band. But I had no idea how extensively the Wrecking Crew, this rotating cast of 20 or so session musicians, were featured on all the pop music coming out of Los Angeles at that time. Surprisingl ...more
Apr 29, 2015 Denise rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I just listened to my little transistor radio. I didn't usually know the artists who made the songs, and I certainly didn't know that they weren't even playing their instruments on the recordings. Turns out that recording studios worked in three-hour blocks, and if they went overtime, the union required time-and-a-half. Producers literally couldn't afford mistakes, so they hired the Usual Suspects (including Glen Campbell and Leon Russell) to lay down the tracks. The vocals mostly came from the ...more
Aug 01, 2015 G. rated it it was amazing
As a music fanatic, it's been my great pleasure to know about The Wrecking Crew for quite a few years now, but certainly not in the early 60s when they were the music business' well-kept secret. That's what makes this such a wonderful and fascinating book, because now the world can know. The book completes the picture. The Wrecking Crew was a loose collection of some 30 or so expert studio musicians in LA who would be called in by the record companies to play on the records that became the hits, ...more
Roger Greenawalt
May 05, 2012 Roger Greenawalt rated it liked it
Learned tons about the very small group of LA musicians who played on a preponderance of the great hit songs of the 60's. These are my people.
Writing stylistically is a little dry but the data is comprehensive.
Oct 09, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Great stories, good research. Only wish he had spent longer with each individual; I got the sense there was much more out there to tell.
Drew Geraci
Jan 30, 2016 Drew Geraci rated it it was amazing
Within these pages, you learn of the invisible mega-talented session musicians responsible for creating the sounds of the most-beloved #1 hit songs of the 60s. From Frank Sinatra, Jan & Dean, The Mamas and the Papas, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, The Monkees and many more. These musicians (including a young Glen Campbell) invented timeless sounds through instinctive ingenuity matched with brilliant arrangements by producers like Phil Spector. A peek behind the curtain to know the men (and wo ...more
Feb 05, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
Not very deep, but a fun read! I was constantly singing along in my head!
Mar 29, 2015 Donna rated it liked it

The Wrecking Crew was a group of session musicians in LA. They played in the studio on some of the biggest songs to hit airwaves. I had no idea that Glen Campbell started playing guitar with this group. And what about Carol Kaye - a kick ass female bass player!
The reader is inundated with names of musicians, both the relatively unknown and the well known. I admit there were several times that I had to backtrack to figure out who was who. However, it was still very interesting and a good preview
Steven Cady
Great book of anecdotes concerning the studio musicians of LA in the 60's, many refugees from the Midwest moving to the promised land and finding success and a new identity like Leon Russell. Since the arrangements of pop music were often simple, these musicians contributed much to the sound of the resulting records. Highlights the career slides of Spector and Wilson but most stories are positive. Another piece in the puzzle of who actually produced all of the great music from this time period.
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