February/March 2007 | Volume 58, Issue 1
The first real “concept” album, Pet Sounds featured the Wrecking Crew and wunderkind producer Brian Wilson at their creative apex. Considered by Sir Paul McCartney to be the finest pop recording of the 1960s, it undeniably influenced the very competitive Beatles to create their conceptual masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band .
Coming off two number-one albums in a row— The Graduate and Bookends —this former Queens folk duo did themselves one better on their final studio LP. The soaring gospel-influenced title track not only won a Grammy for song of the year but was also the biggest-selling single of 1970—helped in no small part by the Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine’s memorable, crashing performance.
These Greenwich Village folk/rock transplants reached superstar status in L.A. in 1966 with their very first release. With its songs “Monday, Monday” and “California Dreamin’,” this album, regarded a pop classic, features the Wrecking Crew mainstays Blaine, Knechtel, and Osborn as the rhythm section on every track.
The Monkees exploded onto the TV and pop-music scene in late 1966 with a mixture of slapstick comedy and youthful exuberance. But there was nothing funny about their success. This first album went straight to number one, sitting atop the Billboard charts for 13 consecutive weeks. The secret? Mike, Peter, Micky, and Davy simply sang along while the Wrecking Crew did all the instrumental work.
Flying solo this time without her famous father, Nancy Sinatra struck vinyl gold with “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Helping make those go-go boots truly walk the walk was the veteran Wrecking Crew bassist Chuck Berghofer, who wrote and played the signature descending standup-bass run.
Yes, Alpert did play trumpet, but the rest of the Tijuana Brass actually consisted of the Wrecking Crew. A little-known fact: During 1966 Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass sold more records than any group in the world, including the Beatles. A second little-known fact: The model on the album cover was actually covered in shaving cream (and was several months pregnant at the time).
This groundbreaking vocal group hit its creative stride with the release of its third album, Insight Out , featuring the perennial pop favorites “Windy” and “Never My Love.” With the Wrecking Crew again playing all the instruments, the producer, Bones Howe, had to sidestep some fragile band egos in the studio. “The Association were great singers,” he recalls, “but they just weren’t up to the task instrument-wise.”
With peace, love, and good vibes being ubiquitously celebrated by 1969, the prolific and talented Fifth Dimension again hit the top of the charts, this time with the medley “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the controversial rock opera Hair . As usual, the Wrecking Crew played all the instruments, and the song helped propel the album to a Grammy for record of the year.
Considered the first “live” album of the pop/rock era, this initial LP release by Rivers cemented his position as the biggest star on the then-burgeoning Sunset Strip. The record also featured the Wrecking Crew both onstage and in the studio, where a little “sweetening” occurred after the fact, setting the stage for future supposedly “live” releases like Frampton Comes Alive .
With the Burt Bacharach/Hal David title cut and impeccable production values, this sophomore release turned the wholesome, sweet-singing Carpenters into bona fide music celebrities. The gifted Karen didn’t play the only drums on the album (as she often did in concert). It was also Hal Blaine behind the kit.