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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Can a chipmunk derail the Wrecking Crew?

It's three years since I blogged about music doc "The Wrecking Crew" and it's still not released. Last night they had a screening at BAFTA. I spoke to producer Denny Tedesco about the thing that's holding it up, the slow process of getting permission to use the scores of records on the soundtrack. (There's a full list here with links to the original musicians union contracts. This is a decent Spotify playlist of the kind of records involved.)

Tedesco still needs three hundred thousand dollars to clear the hits his father and other Wrecking Crew members played on, which range from "Be My Baby" through "Mr Tambourine Man" to "California Dreaming". He's keen to stress that many people have been helpful and generous. Artists such as Herb Alpert who own their masters have granted permission. Wealthy music industry people have written cheques.

The track he's having special trouble with is, ironically enough, "The Chipmunks Theme". The Chipmunks were the invention of Ross Bagdasarian who had some hits at the end of the 50s by speeding up his voice in playback to create the sound of a pop-singing squirrel. Ross died in 1972 but his son keeps the Chipmunks franchise going. In 2000 he and his wife sued Universal Studios for $100 million for failing to properly promote the Chipmunks and thereby "destroying an American icon".

Fictional creatures always bring out the worst in people. As many lawyers have ruefully advised after going to court with the Disney Corporation, "you don't mess with the mouse."

There's a screening of "The Wrecking Crew" next Friday at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. Details here.