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I finished this book yesterday:



It's rare these days for me to read a book straight through, but this one held my attention. It's the story of a dozen or so musicians (there were more than this number involved, but not covered in the book) in the Los Angeles area in the fifties and sixties who played on virtually every rock and roll hit of the era that came from the LA studios. I had heard of them over the years, but was amazed the impact these people had on the music of the time.

One of the things that surprised me was that most of the players in the bands weren't considered good enough to do studio work, but could manage to do the songs on the road. Studio time was expensive, and producers needed someone to show up on time, play the music without any mistakes, improvise on the spot, take the money and leave. Some of these players were booked up months in advance and made pretty good money for the time. They were almost always anonymous as far as the public was concerned. I'd heard of some of them, mostly the guitar players.The only one of these people likely to be known to most people is Glen Campbell. He was one of the most-recorded guitarists of the time but the public had never heard of him until he hit it big as a singer.

Probably every one knows that The Monkees were a manufactured band, chosen from thousands of applicants for the tv show. Only two of them had any musical experience. The Wrecking Crew (TWC) did all the music for the Monkees' early hit records, laying down the instrumental part. The boys would then come into the studio and record the vocals. They learned to play the music well enough to do the songs on tour. Some of TWC occasionally toured with the bands they had created the music for.

A similar situation happened with The Beach Boys. The records were made with TWC, sometimes while the band was out touring. TWC also played the music heard on records by The Mamas and the Papas, some of the Everly Brothers hits, the 5th Dimension, Simon and Garfunkel. and many more.

The studios insisted on absolute secrecy of all this from public knowledge, and succeeded. It was well-known in the industry, though. The musicians were paid union scale for the time, they got no share of the vast amounts of money made by the studios. Very unfair. They may have gotten a few hundred dollars for work on a recording which made many millions. A very few of these people had recordings released of their own work apart from the studio work they did. They sometimes worked 15-hour days for the studios. They were pretty well-paid for time, though.

A documentary movie has been made inspired by this book. I'm looking forward to seeing it. These people were amazing.

Mike
 
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