Hey there Rainmaker, today’s issue is a little diversion.
If you’ve been reading for very long, you know I’m a rank-amateur musician (though a pretty good DJ and okay producer), with a whole lot of love for music, musicians, and the music business.
That means I also have a soft spot for music documentaries.
I love to see and hear true professionals telling war stories of making it (and not) in music. And music documentaries usually have really good sound tracks!
The other night, I opened up Netflix and saw a documentary with a picture of a classic, chrome jukebox on the front. The title?
The Wrecking Crew!
Here’s the description of The Wrecking Crew!
“Prolific session musicians the Wrecking Crew, who provided backup instrumentals for numerous popular bands in the 1960s, are profiled by filmmaker Denny Tedesco, whose father, Tommy, was a member of the band, in this absorbing documentary.”
Sounded good. That and a good cover, and I was willing to give it a shot.
The film opened with famous song after famous song (all of which are still in steady rotation on the radio today), which The Wrecking Crew provided instrumentals for.
— The Monkees
— Bing Crosby
— Nancy Sinatra
— Bobby Vee
— The Partridge Family
— David Cassidy
— Jan & Dean
— The Mamas & The Papas
— The 5th Dimension
— The Association
— The Carpenters
— Glen Campbell
— Sonny & Cher
— John Denver
— The Beach Boys
— Simon & Garfunkel
— The Righteous Brothers
— The Grass Roots
— Nat King Cole
— The Byrds
— Leonard Cohen
… And so on.
So many defining American pop acts, throughout the 1960s… It turns out… Didn’t even play on their own records!
For example… Brian Wilson was the genius behind The Beach Boys. But he never really considered The Beach Boys to be a band. Rather, they were an act, that performed his music. So when it came time for Wilson to record a new album, he didn’t care so much that the other members of The Beach Boys were — or were not — on the album. He just wanted the best possible music. And so the instrumentals on such quintessential songs as “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” and pretty much the entire Pet Sounds album were NOT played by The Beach Boys — but by The Wrecking Crew. The Beach Boys as we know them toured to support the album, but the studio tracks were recorded by this amazing group of session musicians.
Here’s something else that blew my mind.
Phil Spector is perhaps one of the best producers ever to make their mark on pop music. His “wall of sound” technique is famous, thanks to acts like the Ronnettes and The Righteous Brothers major hits. John Lennon tapped Spector for his “Imagine.” What made the wall of sound approach so distinct was that Phil would get a giant room full of musicians playing in near-perfect sync, and record all of it together in one take. This does not come easily. First off, you need very good musicians. Secondly, Spector discovered, you have to make the musicians play the same thing all day long until all individuality goes out of each instrumentalist’s playing and the sounds all mash together. Well, Spector may have come up with this approach, and pushed it forward on his tracks. But it was consistently the musicians in The Wrecking Crew that played on Spector’s famous productions. Without The Wrecking Crew, there likely would have been no wall of sound, and no Phil Spector as we know him today.
(Oh yeah, and it’s also worth knowing that their credits also include theme songs and jingles galore — including Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Green Acres, Batman, M*A*S*H, The Pink Panther, and a whole lot more!)
From a popular music history standpoint, I think this documentary is fascinating to watch.
(There’s also a big debate in electronic music right now about “ghost producers” making tracks that are released under the name of superstar DJs. This movie makes it clear that this phenomenon goes back a very long time.)
But there was one thing — a short clip near the end of the movie — that jumped out at me and that I thought it would be worth sharing with you.
Guitarist Tommy Tedesco revealed his four reasons to take a gig — and if you sell services at all, I think this is a very good set of screening criteria…
You see, The Wrecking Crew was an informal group. A lot of musicians who regularly played together. But they were freelancers, each one. Which meant that for any particular studio session, any group of them could be offered the opportunity to sit in and play.
Some of those gigs would be incredible opportunities. Others, not so much.
After a lifetime of taking good ones and bad, Tedesco was offering this recommendation to other musicians who might be looking at this kind of work…
Take a gig because of the money, the connections, the experience, or just because you think it will be fun.
You have to know why you’re doing it. And make that your motivation.
— Money: Does it pay well? Is your need or desire for the money worth more than the time or commitment the gig will take? Is this a strong enough motivating factor if the gig might not be the best in other ways? I tend to think this is the worst reason to take a gig (if other things don’t line up), but it can lead to a good outcome if you just focus on fulfilling your side of the deal.
— Connections: Who do you get to work with? I’ve taken gigs where I’ve earned less, but the connections have been incredible. The Titans of Direct Response was a great example. It maybe didn’t earn me as much as some other promotions I could have done in that time would have. But the opportunity has continued to pay off in expanding my network in the high-level direct response marketing world.
— Experience: What can you learn from taking the gig? This can be huge. For example, very early in my copywriting career, I got the opportunity to work directly with Mark Ford, then better-known as Michael Masterson. We didn’t work together a lot, but his critiques and feedback on my copy gave me a quantum leap in my copywriting.
— Fun: Absolutely! Sometimes it’s worth taking gigs that are fun, because ultimately you’ll remember the fun more than anything else on this list when you’re lying on your deathbed. When you’ve got food on the table, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head, sometimes pursuing projects for the fun of it can be the most rewarding thing you can do.
If you can look at a gig and see that it makes sense to take it on any one of these criteria, and that’s what you want today, do it!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets