Review by Roy Trakin.
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).