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He's the most-recorded drummer in history, with credits ranging from Frank Sinatra to The Monkees to The Beach Boys to The Byrds to... you get the idea. Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound? Unthinkable without the authoritative beat of Hal Blaine, one of the famed group of musicians who made up LA's illustrious Wrecking Crew (a term he coined, by the way). But Blaine, characteristic of a sticksman, chalks up his good fortune to "having the right timing at the right place. I just fell into this vat of chocolate."
Schooled in jazz , Blaine differed from his contemporaries during the late '50s and early '60s when it came to playing rock 'n' roll. "A lot of drummers I knew wouldn't touch rock," he says. "They thought it was dirty and disgusting. To me, playing rock 'n' roll was no different than any other form of music. You're just playing a big backbeat, that's all."
Of his days and nights in The Wrecking Crew (many of whom are the subjects of a brilliant documentary film currently making the festival circuit), Blaine recalls them as being "magical times. You’ll never get music like that again, and you won’t get a group of musicians like The Wrecking Crew together again. The business just doesn’t work that way anymore.
“Funny thing is, we had no idea that what we were doing was groundbreaking or revolutionary. Doing a TV show in the morning, a Beach Boys track or a Phil Spector session in the afternoon, then working with Frank Sinatra or Simon & Garfunkel after that – that was normal to us. We were working musicians, playing great music. We got the job done, and we made a hell of a lot of money doing it."
Although Blaine estimates that "roughly 30 to 40 musicians were the first-call players" during those glory years, he maintains that the core group of session aces who comprised The Wrecking Crew consisted of Earl Palmer on drums; Glen Campbell and Tommy Tedesco on guitar; Lyle Ritz, Ray Pohlman, Jimmy Bond and Red Callender on bass; along with keyboardists Don Randi, Leon Russell, Al Delory and Larry Knechtel. "Any combination of those guys, and you had something good happening.”
According to Blaine, The Wrecking Crew were highly learned musicians, with one notable exception: "Glen Campbell didn’t really read music. He could look at charts and get a sense of what was going on, but everything he did was by ear. When you think about it, though, we all had good ears… good feel, timing. We knew what the songs needed. Of course, we had some pretty good songs to play on, too.”
In the case of Hal Blaine, that playlist would number in the thousands. Over 6000, in fact. With such a voluminous catalogue of tunes, picking one's personal best could prove to be a daunting, if not impossible, task. But on the following pages, Hal Blaine does just that, listing what he considers to be his greatest recordings of all time. Trust us, they're all winners - nothing but big-time smash hits. And as you might expect, there's not one missed beat to be found.