I knew after watching last February’s two-hour Vinyl pilot that it was toast. If asked I would’ve told HBO executives to pull the plug then and there. But no — they hung in there, tried to create buzz by offering free episodes on HBO Now, approved a second season and then changed their minds and pulled the plug.
Here’s what I wrote 17 weeks ago: I sat through Martin Scorsese‘s two-hour Vinyl pilot last night, and I’m sorry, man, but it didn’t quite cut it for me. Here and there, yes, but overall no. The greatest rock music era was not the glitter-trash early ’70s but the mythical explosion-and-transformation period between ’64 and ’68 — the arc that began with Motown, early British invasion (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc.), schmaltz and bubble-gum succumbing or getting swallowed or pushed aside by Bob Dylan and folk rock finessings and then the Yardbirds and the Velvet Underground and early-to-advanced psychedelia. (And don’t forget the Boxtops!)
I’m also unable to believe in a loud, crude, non-levitational guy named Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) as a kind of electric talent-spotting, trend-spotting savant. Cannavale has been playing none-too-bright New Jersey goombah types for too long to attempt this kind of transition, and I just didn’t care what happened to him or what he lucked into or what new rock group is about to restore his faith in rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t mean to sound harsh or dismissive but I didn’t like or care about anyone.
Vinyl suffers from way too much sweat, cocaine, awful clothing, booze from the bottle, shouting, guns, threats, lying and a general lack of recognizable human behavior. I don’t want or need this shit in my head. I’ll stay with it for another episode or two, but I’m not happy, I’m tellin’ ya.
“Cocaine Is Boring. Jack Daniel’s Is Boring” — posted on 11.17.15: I know a little something about the trials of a rock band (having been a mediocre drummer in my early 20s in a not-half-bad blues rock group called the Sludge Brothers) and the difficulties of creating a sound that works and recording it the right way and getting the right gigs, etc. And yet Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger‘s Vinyl, to go by this trailer and previous teasers, seems uninterested in the brick-and-mortar stuff. It looks like just another bacchanalian coke-and-booze Satyricon thing. Self-destruction (or dangerously flirting with same) by way of drugs and booze is not interesting.
Almost Famous was 15 years ago — it would be great if Vinyl was more like it. You know…a longform about the music business of the late ’60s and ’70s that takes a Spotlight approach — one that shows you how it really works in a survivalist, real-world sense — songs, recordings, relationships, beautiful women, wild adventures, creative clear-light moments, finding and keeping the right manager…the general uphill struggle of it all.
You know what would be really great? A longform about the creative-transcendence boom years of ’64, ’65, ’66 and ’67. It was all over by late ’68 anyway. There’s nothing more boring in the universe of narrative film than getting fucking wasted.