*This post contains spoiler information for Season One, Episode Six: ‘Cyclone’.*
Rock ‘n’ roll can be a cruel mistress, but it can also be a ticket to the high life. Music biz hotshot Richie Finestra has had his taste of both options so far in Vinyl. Unfortunately (for him), this week’s sixth helping sees the label exec finally hit rock bottom, and not just in record sales.
Down and out
So screwed up now is Finestra from his mammoth cocaine habit that even a wise-cracking imaginary German can’t bring him round. We’re talking about Ernst here of course – the positively hilarious hallucinatory sidekick Richie opens the show with. Sprawled on the sofa in his smoky den of a living room Finestra thinks he’s having a great time – coked up to his eyeballs, laughing and joking around with Ernst – but we can see his situation for what it really is. A total fucking mess. Wife gone, record label in free fall and pretty much all of his personal relationships damaged beyond repair. Hell, it even turns out the American Century logo looks like a toilet. Now there’s a metaphor for life.
Roused from his rancorous slumber by the maid, Richie attempts to greet his terrified children with a fatherly group hug. The moment is unbearably awkward, and any sliver of respect we might still have for the man evaporates instantly. While Finestra’s demise has previously been romanticised with the usual ‘rock and roll survivor’ shtick, this time nothing is sugarcoated. Richie is pitiful, and that’s how he’s portrayed.
Perhaps the only character capable of giving him the boot up the backside he needs is wife Devon. Who predictably has gone awol uptown. While she’s busy reconnecting with old artist friends Richie sets about nicking classic cars, crashing a Bar Mitzvah and shagging his secretary in the toilets.
Meanwhile, the equally grimy Nasty Bits are having a tough time of it. Anglo punk-rocker Kip Stevens won’t pick a new frontman – “There’s no chemistry!” – and the band are losing faith in their cockney leader. That’s until Kip has a handy run-in with a plucky guitar thief across town. More on that next week.
The Nasty Bits are noticeably absent for the most part in ‘Cyclone’, so the show’s musical pedigree is held up by yet another storming soundtrack. The Stooges’ ‘Raw Power’ scores Richie’s fumbled take-down of Andy Warhol. ‘Here Comes The Night’ by Lulu plays as Devon and best mate Ingrid lament their lost youth. While American Century co-partner Zac Yankovich finds solace in a surprisingly soulful ‘Life On Mars’ cover by Trey Songz.
“I’m a record man!”
This unexpected song credit isn’t Zac’s only excuse to take the stage either. Ray Romano is in fine form as Richie’s hacked-off colleague throughout. He throws an abysmally late Richie out of his daughter’s coming of age party, and even accompanies newly recruited PR baron Andy Zito to a meeting with David Bowie. Yankovich makes a hash of things, naturally, but in far less of a spectacular manner than Noah Bean. His dreadful turn as the late Starman trudges all over David Bowie’s grave in stomach-clenching style.
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Fact: there is only one Thin White Duke, and it is light years too soon for any actor to be dragging his spectre back onto screens in any form other than archive footage. ‘Suffragette City’ is typically butchered (as was Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light White Heat’ last week) and it nearly kills the whole episode. It’s lucky Bobby Cannavale’s on such mercurial form as Richie, darting around the Big Apple, raising hell wherever he goes, or a stellar outing could have been seriously spoiled.
Is this the end?
Thankfully ‘Cyclone’ lives up to its whirlwind theme and drags us back to the eye of the storm (the Finestras’ Connecticut home) for a final marital confrontation. Initially winning her over – Richie tearfully apologises – it soon becomes clear to Devon that her troubled husband has finally gone off the deep end. She makes a break for the hills with quietly obedient kids in tow, and this week’s bonkers episode ends in gleefully revelatory flashback. There’s even a cleverly executed Buddy Holly cameo thrown in for good measure.
So, Richie’s life might, finally, have sunk to its lowest ebb by the time the curtain closes on Vinyl’s sixth instalment. But conversely, the programme has never been so exciting. The early episodes’ pedestrianism has been replaced by a breakneck pace not dissimilar to Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’. It all means that things are building nicely to a potentially explosive series climax. So let’s hope our drugged up hero doesn’t calm down too soon. Rave on Richie!
“Does surrounding yourself with idiots make you feel superior? How will you break new ground if this is who executes your vision?” – Good to meet you Ernst! Where have you been the whole series?
“Act casual.” – Richie does anything but when attempting to carjack a beautiful Pontiac Firebird
“Don’t make me burn you with this perfectly good joint.” – Devon Finestra’s feisty warning to old pal Ingrid
“He’s gonna make something of himself one day.” – You don’t say Zac? – Yankovich on David Bowie
“Day after day in that house, I hear this creaking back and forth. It’s the sound of me hanging myself from the rafters.” – How much does Devon hate her life? This much.
Loving Vinyl? Find out what it was really like in 1970’s New York from executive producer Mick Jagger here
Read NME’s interview with Vinyl music supervisor Randall Poster on working with Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Charli XCX and more. Plus an exclusive playlist from the show