Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Word (or two) about Vinyl

As this is The Vinyl Word I thought I really should give a mention to Vinyl, the new HBO series produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger which started this week. Set in the New York music business of the early seventies, with occasional flashbacks to the sixties, it's sex, drugs and rock and roll in all its glory. Starring Bobby Cannavale as record man Richie Finestra on the brink of selling his ailing label, American Century, to a German company, it is typical Scorsese, with coke being snorted liberally, occasional sex, plenty of violence and central characters who would make anyone thinking of going into the music business think again.
This two hour opener featured Richie's attempts to sign Led Zeppelin in order to save the sale to the Germans. It didn't go well, as their foul mouthed manager Peter Grant hates Germans and Robert Plant is more interested in doing to a couple of girls what record companies have done to the band. There's also a scary radio station owner who is boycotting the label because he's been snubbed by Donny Osmond. He ends up smashed to a pulp after inviting Richie to his house. Then there are the Nasty Bits, a thinly disguised version of the New York Dolls (or possibly the Sex Pistols), their lead singer played by Jagger's son James, whose act is so electric that the building they are playing in collapses around them, with a coke-fuelled Richie wandering out covered in dust but uninjured. There are also flashbacks to how Richie started out in his career, managing a blues singer Lester Grimes, who is renamed Little Johnny Little and persuaded to sing pop styled twist numbers before being let down, and beaten up, when Richie was unable to take him to his newly formed label.
There's a hell of a lot of fantasy about all this of course. Most of the characters are so obnoxious or weak that they make the flawed Richie look halfway human, and in most cases they are cardboard cut-outs. The collapsing building is, presumably, symbolic, rather than real, but who knows? And there are various sub plots which may develop as the series continues.  But there's a tremendous energy about it and a lot of style.
The best part of Vinyl is probably the music itself. In episode one we had Chris Kenner (or rather a vocal group miming to I Like It Like That), a female singer miming to Ruth Brown for no apparent reason, Bo Diddley (Richie is given a square guitar as a birthday gift), Blue Cheer singing Summertime Blues, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding, plus Slade (who were rubbished by the A and R guys at the record company) and Abba.
'You can't always get what you want', to quote one of the characters, but Martin and good old Mick have put together a series that is well worth following, and I shall be tuning in over the next ten weeks - if only for the background music,

6 Comments:

At 5:50 pm , Blogger Do Wah Diddy said...

Hi Nick, Your paragraph starting "There is a hell of a lot of fantasy" is actually incorrect, I saw all of this in the UK music industry and the American side was much worse. Most of the record industry people are like their portrayals here and backstabbing was normal, as nobody had the guts to say anything to your face. The drug side of things was far more prevalent in the US, but I still had my encounter of demands for drugs from some of the artists, thinking it came with their advance.

As for the building falling down....now that was absurd !

 
At 3:17 pm , Anonymous keith s said...

in new York, the building did actually collapse. it was the mercer arts center and was often the home of the new York dolls, who are the band being depicted playing there when it collapsed(that did not happen).

 
At 3:21 pm , Anonymous keith s said...

Mercer Arts Center (1971–1973)[edit]

Looking for a way to present their work to a public audience, Steina and Woody Vasulka rented the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center, in the former Broadway Central Hotel in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The Vasulka’s, with help from Andy Mannik, opened The Kitchen as a presentation space for video artists on June 15, 1971. Later that year, the Vasulkas added music to their programming and named Rhys Chatham the first music director. The Kitchen continued their eclectic programming at the Mercer Arts Center until the summer of 1973 when they began planning to move to 59 Wooster Street. On August 3, 1973, the building that housed the Mercer Arts Center collapsed,[3] making this decision final.

 
At 3:28 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Many thanks for the info Keith. I can appreciate the decision to mix fact with fiction as it all leads to a cracking good story. Looking forward to the next episode.

 
At 12:08 pm , Blogger ChrisdeB said...

Hiya Nick JUst watched the 1st 2 eoisodes. I enjoyed it. The record industery of the time was very much like that a lot of drug abuse happening. there is a great book about Casablanca records about the time coke being taken out at board meetings etc, Iam sticking with it

Chros

 
At 6:34 am , Anonymous dissertation writing service uk said...

This is one of the best post you have done keith. I think all the words you are specified are really truth.

 

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