When the teaser for Vinyl, the new HBO series created by Terence Winter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire), Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, and Rich Cohen, hit YouTube a few months ago, it created a tizzy that is probably much too similar to being at a rock concert in the 1970s.
Set in 1973, the pilot, directed by Scorsese, follows American Century Records owner Richie Finestra (the incredible Bobby Cannavale) as he tries to save his label by agreeing to a bailout by German record company PolyGram, hoping and fighting to sign Led Zeppelin, and aching to find a new sound and inspiration.
The pilot begins with a desperate Richie scoring cocaine in a dingy backstreet in New York City. Just then, a delirious crowd runs into an old decrepit building, where the rock band New York Dolls is performing. Richie, hypnotised and follows the crowd, hoping to find what he is looking for.
The two-hour long episode, interspersed with flashbacks to Richie’s beginnings in the record business, recreates the intoxicating 1970s with attention to the details that seem to define the decade – the flowing ponchos, sequined tights, big hair and loud colorful make-up. There is more than a fair share of rock‘n’roll bands, endless strips of cocaine and too many men, but sadly, not enough women as yet.
Richie’s assistant Jamie (Juno Temple), who appears to be a faint imitation of Peggy Olson (if Peggy were stashing drugs instead of cherry Danishes) is looking to land a radical punk band called the Nasty Bitz (featuring Mick Jagger’s son James Jagger) while navigating through a sexist era. Olivia Wilde plays Richie’s wife, who is trying to keep it clean for the sake of their kids and family, but surely, there is more under the surface here.
The fierce nostalgia for the ’70s is reinforced with a brilliant soundtrack composed of soul, blues and rock and roll and featuring a mix of tracks by Otis Redding, The Meters, Edgar Winter, Foghat, Ruth Brown, and more. Vinyl is placed at the cusp, when disco, punk and hip-hop were only starting to get loud. Whether the show will be just as memorable as the music the decade produced is something we’ll need to wait and watch. We have already met Don Draper, Tony Soprano, and Walter White. Clearly, Cannavale’s Richie Finestra has a long list of flawless anti-heroes to compete with.
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