The Vinyl Verdict!

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Review by Roy Trakin.

Vinyl (HBO)

Like the recent Diary of a Teenage Girl, Vinyl is poised at the moment the ‘60s era of peace-and-love curdled into the druggy, coke-fueled desperation of the ‘70s. As for its surprisingly numerous detractors – many of whom claim to have experienced its depictions first hand – this is not a documentary, but a feverish dream of a music business that never existed in real life, a parody that’s supposed to be funny.  And you won’t find me complaining about a narrative that includes an epiphany at an expertly recreated New York Dolls concert at a crumbling Mercer Arts Center.

Bobby Cannavale is a mash-up of Tommy Mottola, Walter Yetnikoff and, yes, the late Marty Thau, whose own life was changed when he discovered the Dolls, giving up a cushy promotion gig with Neil Bogart (another possible role model) to pursue his rock ‘n’ roll dreams. 

Like Terence Winter’s Boardwalk Empire, another show that got off to a slow start before finding its stride, Vinyl liberally mixes reality and fiction– Hy Weiss’ “$100 handshake,” the take-off on MCA’s “Music Cemetery of America” put-down, Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant’s legendary temper, mobsters-cum-promotion men like Joe Isgro and corrupt label boss Morris Levy.  

Sure, the time frame is off just a little – and Marty Scorsese’s presence turns it more into Goodfellas meets Hit Men, while fellow executive producer Mick Jagger casts a sneering, lookalike son who’s a combination of his old man and Richard Hell.

Still, I’m enjoying the small touches – when the Germans refer to ‘The Led Zeppelin,” it reminds me of real-life Polygram label chief Guenter Hensler, who used to enthuse in his thick accent, “Kiss is fan-tas-tic.”

Sure, there’s exaggerated melodrama – the crushing of Andrew Dice Clay’s gun-wielding Spector-esque radio guy’s head is more mafia than music biz — but that has always been part of its allure.

Vinyl airs in Australia on Showcase, Mondays at 8.30pm (repeated during the week).

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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