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Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson, and the Wrecking Crew

Pet Sounds recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its release. In commemoration, Brian Wilson is performing the Beach Boys' landmark album in its entirety on a tour that begins today in Baltimore. The record's creation called for collaboration with several musicians, commonly known and referred to as the Wrecking Crew – a title that referenced a belief held by some older pro musicians that these young, laidback instrumentalists would "wreck" the industry. Don Randi was one of the many members in the Wrecking Crew. He recently spoke with Music Direct via email about his experience as a keyboard player.

Why/how did you become interested in playing the keyboard?
My father had a piano in his restaurant and I would try and play it, starting when I was five years old. I was surrounded by music ever since I can remember.

How did you become a member of the Wrecking Crew?
In the very beginning, we were studio musicians working for Phil Spector and we became known as the Wall of Sound. About two years later, we became known as the Wrecking Crew because of our approach in working with the different artists and producers.

At the time, did you have any idea how renowned the Wrecking Crew would become?
Being a member was an honor for all of us because we were the people making many hit records.

Of the countless sessions you worked on, do you have a favorite artist or record?
It's too hard to pick a favorite song or artist. Nancy Sinatra, the Righteous Brothers, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson...to name a few.

Did you play keys on every song on Pet Sounds?
I played piano and B3 organ on some of the Pet Sounds album.

What's your favorite song from Pet Sounds?
"God Only Knows" and "Sloop John B" are outstanding, along with "Good Vibrations." The vocalise and the compositions [are what] always draw me to the Beach Boys.

More facts about the Wrecking Crew:
  1. Denny Tedesco directed a documentary on the Wrecking Crew, titled, simply, The Wrecking Crew. Denny is the son of Tommy Tedesco, a renowned guitarist and session musician that was a former member of the Wrecking Crew prior to his passing in 1997.
  2. From start to finish, the documentary took nearly 13 years to film and produce. Denny lost his father during the process, so Tommy never saw the finished product. Denny has said the loss helped shape the project, stating "I think losing my father and putting space between the loss and [right] now gave me more insight into what it was like for these musicians."
  3. The Wrecking Crew had only one female member, bassist Carol Kaye. She is also the subject of a documentary called First Lady of Bass, which chronicles her 50-plus years in the industry.
  4. Several of the albums and/or songs on which the Wrecking Crew played received nominations for (and often won) Grammy Awards. Six consecutive Record of the Year Grammy winners featured the Wrecking Crew as session musicians: "A Taste of Honey" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (1966), Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra (1967), Up, Up and Away by the 5th Dimension (1968), "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel (1969), "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension (1970), and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel (1971).
  5. Following the Monterey Pop festival in the late 60s, pop music experienced a shift in the sense that more performers served as the musicians behind their own music. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, among others, opened the gates for the downfall of studio musicians, such as the Wrecking Crew, due to the lack of need.
August 24, 2016

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