New York City, 1973: the golden age of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. And breathlessly ambitious Richie Finestra (played by Bobby Cannavale), head honcho at the record company American Century, has an access-all-areas pass into the beating heart of its sleaze and glamour.
From producers Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf Of Wall Street filmmaker also directed the pilot), Vinyl takes you behind the velvet rope of the music industry during its 1970s heyday, telling the story of a record label struggling to stay afloat and its owner’s struggle to stay clean, along with all the excess, egomania and era-appropriate fashion disasters that go with it. Starring Juno Temple as an up-and-coming American Century employee and Olivia Wilde as a scenester known for hanging out at Andy Warhol’s Factory, it’s packed with great acting talent.
There’s a vast wealth of material to draw on, as New York in that period was a fascinating and vital place for music, with punk clashing against hip-hop and disco shimmying up alongside both of them. Take the New York Dolls-esque band Finestra signs at one point: they symbolise everything glamorous and dangerous about the emerging punk scene that was about to take over the world. In fact, the fictional bands are one of the many sources of fun when it comes to Vinyl – check out the Medieval-themed rock band Wizard Fist, who stand for everything pompous and overblown about the rock scene that punk was about to annihilate.
There’s also fun to be had with ‘cameos’ from music legends you might just recognise: although the record company and its employees at the centre of the story is fictional, the world of Vinyl is chock-full of real-life rock icons. Well, sort of – there are actors playing John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and even The King of rock’n’roll himself, Elvis Presley. Mick Jagger’s son James plays his own dad at one point!
So, Vinyl has a sly sense of humour as well as being outrageously cool and packed with a delirious amount of sex and drugs. Running a record company in 1970s New York was a hell of ride, but can Richie Finestra cling on?