Boston Gets A First Look At HBO Vinyl Episode 1
Last night, about a couple of hundred of us here in Boston were treated to something wonderful, courtesy of HBO. We had the pleasure of seeing HBO’s latest series Vinyl: Episode 1 on the big screen, nearly 2 weeks before it airs on cable. What a treat this was. And what an expensive show this must have been to produce.
This forthcoming series is the brainchild of Rolling Stones frontman, Mick Jagger. The story has been in his head for 40 years. As having lived and indulged in the 1970s music industry in New York City, he would certainly be an authority on it. He may even be The Authority.
The series focuses on the life of Richie Finestra played by Bobby Cannavale. He’s the executive in charge of American Century Records, having created it from nothing. Although his ability to play or write music is weak, he’s got two great ears for it. Furthermore, he knows what he’s talking about. His music industry knowledge is second to none.
The series is set in anything-goes 1973 NYC. Thanks to plenty of non-linear storytelling, we get to see how Richie got his start while bartending in the mid-1960s, working his way up at the Rondeley Records label, and then creating and running American Century.
We’re shown the seedy, dirty side of the 1970s record business as well. The payola machine is on full display, as are how the record labels screw the retailers. (I wish someone would walk into my office and hand me 5 Grand.) There’s even the silent, Italian mob connection. After all, there was money to be made in the 70s music industry.
HBO’s Vinyl brings we the viewer, a wide-array of music, amazing 70s wardrobe by costume designer John Dunn, plenty of foul language, prolific drug use, ethnic insults (primarily towards Germans), and some sex, mixed with more drugs, of course.
HBO’s Vinyl brings us two heavy hitters in the film/television business. First there’s Martin Scorsese, co-creator and executive producer of the series. Moreover, and unknown to me until the conclusion of the first episode, he directed it. When was the last time you saw his name attached to directing anything for television?
The second heavy hitter is Terence Winter, head writer of HBO’s The Sopranos. He’s the series showrunner. And he and his team of writers do an amazing job. Don’t be surprised when you hear his name announced during next year’s Emmy nominations.
The cast is made up of a handful of long-established actors and many others you may or may not recognize. You’ve got series lead Bobby Cannavale, followed by an almost unrecognizable Ray Romano, J.C. MacKenzie and P.J. Byrne at American Century.
There are a few stand-out performances in Episode 1 worth noting, along with plenty of great ad-libbed lines. How do I know about the latter? Well, P.J. Byrne told me while we chatted in Boston after the screening. I won’t spoil any of his character’s lines. I’ll just say I often whispered “Shut up, shut up …” when his character Scott Levitt spoke.
By the time this season is halfway through, there will probably be plenty of award talk. For one, Bobby Cannavale crushes it as Richie Finestra. The executive producers couldn’t have cast anyone better. It just wouldn’t be the same show without him.
There are three other performances to make note of. The first stand-out performance goes to the “f***ing sandwich girl” played by Juno Temple. Her character, Jamie Vine, is actually an A&R assistant at American Century trying to move up the corporate ranks.
The second stand-out performance goes to Ato Essandoh who plays blues singer and guitarist Lester Grimes. Just terrific.
Rounding out the three is comedian Andrew Clay. You heard me correctly, “Dice.” He portrays radio station owner Frank “Buck” Rogers. While not spoiling anything, I will say his scenes are Amazing and Unforgettable! Casting him was a bold choice, but HBO hit a grand slam doing so. Trust me on this.
And regarding “Buck” Rogers, I’ll leave you with one thought: “Donnie F***ing Osmond!”
Smaller shoutouts go to James Jagger, Mick’s son, who plays The Nasty Bits frontman Kip Stevens, and Christopher Moser, who portrays Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. [Tweet “HBO’s Vinyl Episode 1 is nothing short of terrific! The entire team involved created a masterpiece #VinylHBO”]
Having seen the pilot episode on the big screen, I can definitively say this series is larger-than-life. It’s worthy of the big screen. With the theater experience comes great sound. Music defines this series, and you hear plenty of it. The diversity of sound is from beginning to end.
If you’re an audiophile and/or happen to have a home theater, you are in for a treat. You’re going to love each episode’s soundtrack! If you don’t have a great soundbar or speaker system, now is the time you make the investment. Otherwise, be prepared to lower the volume on your television. Once you watch Vinyl Episode 1, you’ll say you should have taken this writer’s advice.
Additionally, every episode of Vinyl comes with a new soundtrack, which you can find at www.vinylcuts.nyc.
Final Thoughts on Vinyl
HBO’s Vinyl Episode 1 is nothing short of terrific! The entire team involved created a masterpiece, a higher gold standard for cable television, outdoing all of HBO’s previous endeavors. It’s more captivating than Boardwalk Empire and yes, even The Sopranos. I believe you’ll come to agree.
This HBO series has legs beyond its first season. And I for one, want to see the Vinyl keep spinning.