HBO’s “Vinyl”. It’s Kind of Plasticky!

Always late to the party, I thought HBO’s new series, “Vinyl” was premiering Sunday night.  I missed that by a week. But thanks to “On Demand”, we were able to watch three full hours of this new series created by Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, Rich Cohen and Terence Winter.


I swear to God, when I saw this print ad for Vinyl, I thought this was Anthony Bourdain.  Actually, if Bobby Cannavale wasn’t available, Bourdain would have rocked the role as Richie Finestra. Bourdain was a bad, bad boy back then!

We all know who Jagger and Scorsese are. And for those who are wondering who Cohen and Winter are—well, Cohen is a writer and he is also a contributing editor to both Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair magazines.  Winter created the great “Boardwalk Empire” series on HBO.


..and you know what?  These two should have known better!  They could have made “Vinyl” a lot more realistic!

When I saw the ads and trailers for Vinyl, I was so excited.  I could not wait to revisit the early 1970’s—especially through the music I loved and continue to love and listen to.  CCR. Led Zeppelin. Hendrix (RIP)  Crosby, Stills and Nash, with and without Young—just to name a few. The 1970’s covered it all from classic rock to funk to disco. A musical mélange if you will!


Creedence. The greatest American rock group of all time…

The real robert plant

Led Zeppelin. My apologies to the rest of the group, but Robert Plant’s hair deserves a photo of it’s own. If only my hair could fall like that naturally….life is sooooooo unfair–or rather unhair!!


With or without Neil Young, CSN was another great rock group.


Yeah. Even though he passed away in 1970, how come there was no Hendrix in the soundtrack? His music was still popular in the 1970’s.  I feel your love Jimi. I feel your love.

I was in high school in 1973.  I lived in New York. Long Island to be exact, but it was just a one-hour ride into The City, via the Long Island Rail Road, making it very convenient to attend rock concerts.  Ahhhh. The Felt Forum and memories of The Kinks! The early Seventies!

the Kinks in 1964, the year You Really Got Me was released

I’m hoping The Kink’s ORIGINAL music makes it into HBO’s Vinyl. Two points that the band even got a mention!

Hold on. I can feel myself going off topic here.  Back to Vinyl.  I was eagerly anticipating this series because the music scene from that era is one that I can relate to.   Besides that, with Martin Scorsese directing and Mick Jagger as one of the creators, Vinyl has to be a precise and authentic look back into musical past.


Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale, center) and his merry “band” of record company misfits!

Bobby Cannavale plays the lead of Richie Finestra.  This is even more greatness.

Or is it?

I thought that the music would be in the front and the drama would be in the background.  Instead the emphasis is on the drama with the music in the background.  It’s a bit of a disappointment to me.  Now I’m no TV or film critic—and I can only give my personal opinion on this series and we’re only into the second week.  But my early thoughts are this:

Martin Scorsese all too often reaches into the darkest possible area and goes over the top with the drug thing.  Quite honestly, I’m hoping that this series lightens up a bit.  Vinyl is taking things a bit too seriously.   Yes. We all know cocaine is a very, very bad drug. But not every snort is taken in a maniacal manner.  The scene where Richie Finestra rips the rear view mirror off this car to do a line or three was a bit overly dramatic.

finestra in the car

I don’t think many people would rip their rear view mirror out of an expensive Mercedes to do blow. He could have just bent down and used the seat!

Scorsese could’ve taken a lesson from Woody Allen. It’s more realistic.

A more realistic look at New York life in the 1970’s.  And a sense of humor!

I love Bobby Cannavale. As an actor, he’s got a great face. He’s got a great gravelly voice and he’s just really good! But enough with the overly-exaggerated strung out, torn between-good-and-bad, I-need-a-hit, emoting.  I honestly think Cannavale’s acting skills are undermined by his way too dramatic facial expressions.

Right before the collapse

This scene killed me.  I can’t spoil but it was just not believable. Bobby is doing a great job emoting–isn’t he? His face says it all!

The period clothing.  OK. I get that the Seventies didn’t exactly give us the best fashion looks.  But when I saw Ray Romano, Max Casella and  P.J. Byrne in their get ups, I started to laugh. It was almost like looking at an SNL skit.  At least the clothing choices for Cannavale were more realistic.


I started to laugh when I saw the  mutton chops. I started to puke when I saw the shit brown suit. Ugh.


..but I think the absolute worst was the shoes pictured above.  Perhaps I was too much of a prepster in my Weejuns, but I don’t remember any man except pimps wearing shoes that bad. And I know how pimps dressed. I lived in NYC in the 1970’s!

The story.  Richie Finestra owns a record company. American Century Records. The company is in the shitter and Richie, along with his partners is in the middle of selling the company to a group of Germans who own Polygram records. The Germans are straight outta “Inglourious Basterds”. Did I see a vision of Christoph Waltz?

Richie has a pretty wife, played by Olivia Wilde, who’s actually good in the role of Devon. She used to be one of Andy Warhol’s muses. She used to be wild. She’s tamed down. Devon drives with a pretend Karen Carpenter in her car.  They have a nice home in Greenwich, Connecticut as well as an apartment in New York City.


Pretend Karen Carpenter. Aimee Mann provides the voice. Why couldn’t a REAL Karen Carpenter recording been used? (My thoughts have nothing to do with Mann–I like Mann a lot–but really?)


Olivia Wilde proves her chops in Vinyl. She’s pretty darn good as Devon Finestra!

It seems that Richie is on the wagon.  In the premiere during flashbacks (there’s a lot of them—and not LSD flashbacks either) Richie and his partners are on a private jet and his partners are blowing coke and getting three young women to blow them.  Richie thoughtfully declines and moves to another seat on the plane. First sign of his druggie struggle.

Ritchie also tries to make nicey-nice with a radio personality who threatens to boycott Richie’s musical artists.  Andrew Dice Clay plays radio personality Frank “Buck” Rogers.  Clay is amazing because I didn’t even realize it was him until I researched the cast!  Anyway, Finestra’s involvement with Rogers leads to a very bad event. I will not spoil but I’ll just say Andrew Dice Clay is great!


I had no idea this was Andrew Dice Clay. He is amazing in this role as a slimy radio personality!

Are you following?

After this very bad event occurs, Finestra goes off the wagon. He drinks. And acts crazed. He does cocaine and becomes even more crazed. We get it already.

He goes on a bender downtown New York and catches (a make believe version of) David Johansen and The New York Dolls at a club that just happens to collapse. AND Finestra, in another dramatic scene, picks himself up from the rubble of a building that just fell on top of him and we see him limping, in the dark, from this dusty rubble.


A freakin’ BUILDING just fell on top of him. Is Finestra a superhero?

He has an epiphany after hearing The (faux) NY Dolls and being buried in the rubble.

NY Dolls

This is a photo of David Johansen and the REAL NY Dolls. The ones in Vinyl were pretend. Sucks that Johansen is prettier than I am.

We also see, in flashback, how Finestra started in the business. He makes a Faustian bargain with a rather unsavory mob character for $150,000. In the meantime, Finestra fucks over the one musician he manages.

There’s a lot going on here—and I’m only into the second episode. It’s almost like a stew that has too many spices and flavors and nothing blends smoothly.   The story is just—well, it’s just choppy! Nothing seems to flow in the right direction.

There is also a certain amount of cheesiness in Vinyl too. Mostly the emphasis on 1970’s fashion trends and NOT using the music of the original artist’s heard throughout the soundtrack.

I’m pissed at both the use of cover versions of songs AND the actual lack of music in this series.

Julian Casablancas covers Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s “Run, Run, Run”. He does very good job but it’s a cover version.  Why couldn’t they dub Reed’s real voice?


Casablancas did the best “pretend” job in Vinyl. Still–I don’t know why Scorsese couldn’t mixed in videos of the REAL Reed.  

Don’t even get me started with the portrayal of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin!  Surely it could have been done in a better way. Just who IS  this Zebedee Row who was supposed to be Robert Plant?  Ouch! I’m feeling very badly that the man of the heavenly locks was portrayed with such bad hair!

zebedee row as plant

Yeah, Baby Baby Baby–this looks nothing like Robert Plant. Plant had better hair.

old black & white copy scan picture of ROBERT PLANT  musician

The REAL Robert Plant used a deep conditioner on those pretty locks. Maybe Jagger was jealous and miscast my Robert!

If I heard one more reference to Donny Osmond, I would have started to emote like Richie Finestra.  I love mature Donny but I would hardly call him a serious rock star of the 1970’s.  Bubblegum Pop star?  Yes. Rock star? No.

I love me some Donny, but back in the early 1970’s I would hardly call him a rock star!

A cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness” at Richie’s birthday party?  What? You couldn’t get the original War version?

In case you ARE watching Vinyl, here’s the REAL version!

The Seventies was a time when music was going through so many changes.  R&B was slowly morphing into Hip Hop.  Classic Rock was being shoved into a corner by Disco.  The frontrunners of Punk Rock were crawling like cockroaches out of the woodwork.

Actually, James Jagger is pretty convincing as the leader of a pre-punk group “The Nasty Bits”

james jagger

James Jagger is actually very good as the leader of “The Nasty Bits”. He should be considering who is daddy is!

In the real 1970’S we had awfully sweet, horrific and saccharine shit like  Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”.

Ugh. I think the real reason I may detest this song is because it reminds me of an old boyfriend!

James Taylor was hitting his stride.

1972. Carolina in My Mind

The Temptations went from songs like “My Girl” to the funkified “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”

Like the awful Bread song, I’m singing to Martin, Mick, Rich and Terrance “Baby I’m A Want You” to focus more on the music and give me more of the music and NOT cover versions of the 1970’s and focus less on the slippin’ into darkness of Richie Finestra’s demons. Make it about the entire industry.

Where were all the original versions of songs???????????????????????? Why were most of them cover versions?  This is an issue that is really getting on my last nerve!

And add a little humor—Spinal Tap is a great film to watch to find your inner sense of the music industry’s funny stuff!

This is Spinal Tap had a humorous history. Maybe Vinyl should look for it’s happy place!

What I like the most, though, is that Vinyl gives a realistic look at New York City before the greed of real estate developers took over.  I miss the grittiness of that New York. Rents were affordable and people were more real than they are now.


New York was better when THESE working girls roamed the streets…


…and when people who drove old cars like the ones above lived in NY! I had an old gray Dodge Dart that smelled like fish when the windshield wipers were turned on!

I’ll be watching the next episodes in hopes that it gets better because Vinyl has all the components of greatness but it is falling short.  I really want to love this series!

Thoughts? Anyone else watching?

And because I’m BEGGING the creators of “Vinyl” to be more realistic–I’ve got Bread (No! NOT the kind you eat–you KNOW I’m off carbs!).  “Baby I’ma Want You” (Which BTW I cannot STAND this song!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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28 Responses to HBO’s “Vinyl”. It’s Kind of Plasticky!

  1. vellissima says:

    “I had no idea this was Andrew Dice Clay. He is amazing in this role as a slimy radio personality!” Andrew Dice Clay playing slimy. Not much of a reach there. Thanks for the lengthy review. I am out of country and haven’t been able to catch it yet, but my money is on it getting much better.

    • Catherine says:

      Vellissima. Clay was fantastic in “Blue Jasmine” (as was Bobby Cannavale!) I’m hoping it gets better because it’s bordering on parody as of today! XOXO!

      • vellissima says:

        I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine. Maybe he is a friend of Cannavale?

      • Catherine says:

        That thought crossed my mind–that perhaps Clay got the gig because he worked with Cannavale in the past. But seriously, Clay was incredible. Check out “Blue Jasmine” is was a great movie. I’m a big Allen fan! XOXO!

  2. I’m not watching the series, but thanks for the trip down memory lane! Robert Plant’s hair really was great! I strived for his style in the 80s!

  3. hipchick66 says:

    No HBO, so I can’t watch it, glad you reviewed it! I had a feeling it was going to fall short AND over dramatize the reality that was the 70s music scene. As for not having original music, that could be due to licensing. Maybe the original artists, or their trusts, didn’t want to be involved with this.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Hipchick! You know, I thought about the licensing thing too. But if Jagger and Scorsese wanted the originals or reached out to them, I would be surprised if any of them said no. Right?? It just drives me nuts to listen to covers on a series like this. It brings the credibility down for me. XOXOXOXO!

  4. Miss Bougie says:

    God, love your rant. Can’t comment on Vinyl though, as it’s not on over here. Love the photos; remind me of a time long gone. Have never heard of Starland Vocal or Bread. Probably never made it over the Pond. Ah, and who didn’t love Donny? Or maybe rooting for David Cassidy? 😉

    • Catherine says:

      I’m glad you loved the rant! Ugh. Starland Vocal Band—just the thought of what goes through my mind–I can’t-LOL. I just can’t! If you get it, which I’m sure maybe the Canal pay-per-view station will run, you should check it out! XOXOXO

  5. spearfruit says:

    I am not watching this, but I do appreciate your take on it. I love the music of the 70’s, it has it’s own category on my blog. Concerning the pimp shoes, I did have a pair like that – sorry if I disappoint you. I wore them with my cuffed bell bottom pants and puffed sleeve shirt. I looked so good back then – it scares me think about it now. Thanks Catherine, another great post. 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      Spear. OMG. You HAD shoes like that? Were you a pimp by any chance? . I’ll tell you this series is really bringing out my ’70’s OCD. I’m hoping the show gets better because I want to hear some KC and the Sunshine Band–preferably by KC himself! Is is so strange how a TV series or a movie can have all the components of epic greatness and fall short! Glad you like the post! XOXOXO!

  6. “Vinyl” has just ‘debuted’ here in my part of the world (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) and I took note of the screening times, and promptly forgot to watch. These epics are challenging to make – some times they get it very right, and other times very wrong! Thanks for the review – I love to watch something with the benefit of a bit of background knowledge. I will be sure to tune in soon to watch. I am particularly interested in seeing James Jagger – he’s 30 now and I hope this role will parlay to his time in the sun.

    • Catherine says:

      Oh Hipsterette. You definitely need to watch this. It would be great to read your input–James Jagger is surprisingly very, very good But you’re right–these stories can be difficult to make–but knowing the brains behind this epic, they really need to get every nuance correctly! XOXOXO!

  7. calensariel says:

    Don’t have HBO either, but after reading this I’m not going to loose any sleep over it. The only thing I like about Scorsese is his ex-wife Julia Cameron who is my writing guru!

    • Catherine says:

      Yeah–Lady Calen, I wouldn’t lose sleep over this either–but now that I’ve been drawn in, I’m so curious to see if this will become a bit lighter. I’m amazed that HBO has renewed this for another season! XOXOXO

  8. maidsdayoff says:

    I’ve only seen the first episode so far, but I agree with you 100%! I was expecting great things with the producers, writers, and actors involved – and I remember 1973 well enough to like the nostalgia factor. At the end of the first episode though, me and the hubby just looked at each other and said “meh” in unison! Like you, I’ll continue to watch, but it had better step up. This one could have been great but so far it’s underwhelming. :-/

    • Catherine says:

      Thank you!!! I am sooooooooooo glad that you agree. I’m pissed because the Oscars are on tonight. I am a sucker for narcissistic behavior and you just KNOW those actors will be in rare “allaboutme”form later tonight. I’ll have to “On Demand” Vinyl!! It really is so underwhelming! XOXOXO!

  9. femme2015 says:

    Music rights can be VERY tricky. It was probably either too expensive or too involved to get the original versions by the original artists. I agree with your points about where the show is OTT (I’ve never been a fan of Bobby Canavale, so there’s that for me too), and also think they may have jumped the Punk gun by a couple of years…

    I started my career at a rock station in the late 70’s. There were plenty of drugs around openly, but also an unwritten rule that you had to be cool about it. You didn’t see those kinds of histrionics.

    • Catherine says:

      You know, that’s another one of my issues with this series. The timeline is just slightly “off”. It is also slightly confusing in the flashbacks. It’s sloppy. Did you see the latest episode? That guy who played Alice Cooper was horrific! I’m realizing more and more that thing about the rights–but I’m still daunted by the lack of great music.

      Bonaparte LOVES the series because he has no clue what went on in those days. He was too busy listening to classical music and drinking wine LOL!!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  10. junedesilva says:

    Salut, Catherine! Must confess that I haven’t seen Vinyl yet. I’m still catching up with the Good Wife (!) and I’m binge watching a brilliant French political series called ‘Spin’. However, your entertaining post brought back some amazing musical memories. I adored CSNY & was lucky enough to see them live at Wembley, London. They were on with Joni Mitchell & The Band. How lucky was I?! I love Led Zeppelin still & Stairway to heaven is one of my all time favourite tracks. Happy Days… Xx

    • Catherine says:

      Salut June! OMG. You WERE lucky!!!! The Band????? Jemima Surrender!!! Didn’t we have great music?????? I hope you end up watching “Vinyl” at some point. It still falls short for me–especially after this past episode but I’m hooked on it. It’s like I want it to get better–but it isn’t!!! XOXOXO!

  11. b claybrook says:

    Thanks for your review! I felt with all the screaming and shouting and panning shots it was too Goodfellas-ish.

    As we watched the (lame) Robert Plant bit, I said to my husband, “He is NOT a golden god!”. And Bowie in the most recent episode was definitely not thin enough. No one could be thin enough. Though they did get the massive mutton chops on Bowie’s bass player right.

    I loved glitter in the mid 70’s. My favorite outfit, from bottom up: kork-ease wedges, rainbow sox, pumpkin/orange Plushbottoms elephant bells, peach nylon blouse, a brown tight short fine-knit top worn over the blouse. Or instead of the brown top, a tshirt with a sequin applique. I also had green corduroy carpenter pants with gold contrast stitching and the little buckle over the butt, worn with a green Huk-a-poo shirt. Go figure. Oh, and Frye campus boots.

    Great blog!

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks b claybrook. I”m glad you agree with me on the review. I still have yet to see the Bowie episode. Hopefully, it’s on On Demand so I can watch it this evening. I saw the previews and that guy did NOT look like Bowie. I don’t get it–that was the best they could do????????????? I’m still reeling over the Plant thing. Ugh! That is so blashphemous to Plant! I wasn’t much of a glitter girl, but I did have those kork-ease wedges and I wish I had saved them. They looked so great with everything from those super-wide bell bottoms to dresses!! I secretly wish the Huk-a-Poo shirts would come back! XOXOXOXO!!!

  12. LosiLosLoco says:

    Vinyl sounds like a wonderful show to watch! Granted, since you are critiquing it, then I see the ups and downs of it. Since I’m not familiar with the 1970s (because I wasn’t alive/haven’t studied the time period) then maybe for me, I may not be so critical. However, I’m interested in watching it! Catherine, you sure managed to get this on my list of shows to watch! 🙂 Thanks for posting!

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