Ever wondered what it was really like in New York in the 70s? The stories of drug fuelled excess and debauchery; did it really play out that way? With HBO’s latest offering, VINYL, you get an idea that maybe those ‘stories’ only just scratch the surface.
The show revolves around record industry exec Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale: Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie). He’s worked his way to the top with the help of ‘a golden ear, a silver tongue and a pair of brass balls’.
But now he faces a battle to keep his label afloat. That, and a battle to find the ‘next big thing’ before someone else does. His team has already passed on a little band from Sweden called ABBA and a deal to sign Led Zeppelin looks like falling through.
But glam, punk and hip-hop are starting to make some noise and could be the saviour of American Century Records if they know where to look.
HBO tells big stories well. The bigger, the better. And in it’s latest offering it doesn’t get any bigger than rock ‘n roll in the 70s.
But make no mistake, this is no warm and fuzzy “Almost Famous” take on the 70s scene. This is gritty and the attention to detail is amazing. It ‘feels’ very real mainly because of its impeccable pedigree.
Mick Jagger is one of the driving forces behind the 10-episodes of Vinyl, along with Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire).
Jagger’s son James plays the lead-singer of a prototype punk band, The Nasty Bits. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree and he performs with that famous Jagger swagger.
It’s clear that Jagger, Scorsese and Winter draw heavily on the rock legend’s experiences and we see the music industry at it’s worst.
Musicians are ripped off, sexism is rampant and the drug taking is staggering. Payola is still a ‘thing’ and music charts are manipulated with ease.
Ray Romano is perfect as Finestra’s slimy business partner Zak Yankovic, while comedian Andrew Dice Clay is scarily believable as drugged up radio station owner Frank “Buck” Rogers. Olivia Wilde plays Richie’s wife Devan; a former model at Andy Warhol’s The Factory.
The two-hour premiere was directed by the Oscar winning Scorsese and there are many echoes of Goodfellas and the Taxi Driver.
But the flash backs and flash-forwards can be a little confusing. It’s easy to lose track of where you’re at in the story arc. Having said that, episode one sets the story up for a wild ride to a conclusion that may or may not be ‘they all lived happily ever after’.
But isn’t that the story of the 70s?