The Healing Power of Rock and Roll

Roy Mackenzie | November 17, 2016

Today’s post comes from Khara Whitney-Marsh at our Putterham Library.

I have this great chiropractor who, in addition to healing sore backs and pulled muscles, shares my passion for rock and roll. Turns out we both love music documentaries, too. At first it was concert films. “Have you seen Shine a Light, Scorsese’s doc of the Stones’ concert that features Buddy Guy?” He described how, after accompanying the legendary blues guitarist on “Champagne and Reefer,” Keith Richards unplugged his guitar and presented it to Buddy. “It’s yours!” he said, paying Guy the ultimate tribute one musician can give another.


Next visit, after the doctor/patient stuff, the Doc couldn’t wait to tell me that “Bobfest” was finally out on DVD. That would be The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration for Bob Dylan in Madison Square Garden we had both seen on TV years before. Wikipedia features the long list of stellar musicians—R&B, rock, country, folk, and blues artists who covered Dylan’s songs that night. The Doc’s favorite moment was when Neil Young sang “All Along the Watchtower” and got the amazing house band moving and jumping along with him. My most memorable had been Kris Kristofferson doing “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”


During one treatment, Doc and I discovered we had both recently watched The Wrecking Crew, a terrific documentary. Ever heard of them? Neither had most people when the band was at its peak. Yet everyone in the country knew their music. It was the Crew America heard when it tuned into Bonanza and Mission Impossible. These were the top L.A. session musicians who backed everybody from Sinatra, Elvis, the Righteous Brothers, the Mamas and Papas, and Sam Cooke, to the Beach Boys. And the Crew WAS Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”! It wasn’t the Beach Boys who played on Pet Sounds. Brian Wilson used the Wrecking Crew to make the album that inspired the Beatles to create Sgt. Pepper. The opening bass line on “Good Vibrations” was played by Carol Kaye, the only female member of the Crew.


The Wrecking Crew was famous in the industry for their ability to play anything, to innovate on the spot, and record with a minimum of takes. My Doc’s favorite part of the film was Roger McGuinn’s appearance.  A forever fan of The Byrds, the Doc told me a story about meeting Roger McGuinn through a mutual friend back in his college days. Twenty-five years later, McGuinn was in Boston for an event. The doctor went to see him. McGuinn greeted him by name and reminded him of their friend. In the film, McGuinn describes how angry the other Byrds were when he used the Wrecking Crew on “Mr. Tambourine Man.” But, he said, the Crew cut 2 tracks in a three hour session and the song went to #1. When it came time to record “Turn, Turn, Turn” the Byrds insisted on backing themselves. McGuinn said it only took them 77 takes to complete that track. Of course, it also went to #1, and they got better.

If you aren’t already a fan of music documentaries, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite. You can find The 30th Anniversary Celebration and Shine A Light through the library’s Minuteman catalog, on both Blu-ray and DVD, and also on their CD soundtracks. The Wrecking Crew is available on Blu-ray and DVD.  We also have the 2012 book by Kent Hartmen, The Wrecking Crew: the Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best Kept Secret, in both print and audio book.

Here is a short list of great rock docs you can find through the library catalog:

Muscle Shoals (or on Blu-ray), inside that studio beat the heart of rock and roll.

Twenty Feet from Stardom (or on Blu-ray), Oscar-winning documentary from Morgan Neville, about the back-up singers with voices surely from Heaven.

Jaco, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo produced this tribute to Jaco Pastorius, which was the Official Selection at SXSW, 2015.

Bruce Springsteen, on VH1 Storytellers, not a concert but a great way to meet Bruce, the song writer/storyteller.

Marley, Ziggy Marley produced this film which takes you to the root and spirit of Bob Marley’s music and his influence.

Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail Rock n’ Roll, a fascinating character study of the musician, made by Taylor Hackford and Keith Richards.

Currently watching on Netflix, Keith Richards: Under the Influence, also from Morgan Neville. It’s not on DVD yet, but I have faith the library will get it when it is!