It’s New York City. It’s 1973. And boy were drugs, sex and rock and roll really taking over the city and America at large. HBO’s new musical series, Vinyl premiered this past Valentine’s Day to much critical acclaim. Bobby Cannavale plays Richie Finestra, head of struggling record company American Century that fictionally represents legends like Donnie Osmond and Led Zeppelin. Due to the ever changing musical climate, the company is almost bankrupt and Richie’s debilitating addictions come to haunt him once he sees there are very slim chances he will be able to save the company.
But in the moment when the demons are crawling up his nose he sees a group of proto-punk rock kids running towards the now defunct musical venue, Mercer Arts Center, and is drawn into the crowd. Rock music fills the air and he experiences a bigger high than any drug could give him.
Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger are part of the creative team that dreamt up this fake story in the very real past. New York City was becoming a dirty, dangerous and decrepit place but despite those odds music was becoming a cultural phenomenon that produced punk, hip-hop, funk and disco. In the early 1970’s the country was still very much affected by the free love hippie movement of the late 1960’s. Those shifts paved the way to such an explosion of creativity that the 1970’s music scene changed the landscape in a big way. In the pilot, Vinyl explores how punk is coming into the forefront of music and how record companies had to adapt to what the kids wanted to hear.
The show was giving me shades of a 1970’s version of Mad Men. Bobby Cannavale does a wonderful job portraying a sleazy yet conflicted record label executive, married to his wife Devon played by Olivia Wilde, and he takes us on a tour of what it was like to live during that time. Ray Romano also stars as another one of American Century employees as does Mick Jagger’s own son James who plays an early punk rocker, eerily similar to the late Sid Vicious. The fashion is far out, and I won’t be at all surprised if the show influences style in 2016. I see platforms and wide leg jeans in my future.
Vinyl airs Sunday nights on HBO.