The Real History and Songs of HBO’s Vinyl: Music List and Reference Guide

We have a breakdown of every song on Vinyl, as well as a look at the various historical figures and events the show looks at.

HBO Vinyl

This article contains Vinyl spoilers. For a spoiler-free review, click here. This is a continuing anthology and will be regularly updated.

HBO dropped the needle on Vinyl on Valentine’s Day. Produced by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter, Vinyl is set in the studios, radio stations and clubs of seventies New York. In this series, we will explore the sounds and sights of the time, lay some backstories on you and give some background on how it came down.

The music and the rock excesses of the period should be covered fairly well, because Jagger wasn’t only there, he was the reason a lot of it was happening. Look at any photo of David Johansen of the New York Dolls and try and see him as anything other than a young Mick in Salvation Army toss offs. Mick was also a blues purist when the Stones started out, so there will be a particular attention to detail on the racial divide in the industry.

You can always count on a diverse mix of hits and misses in a Martin Scorsese movie. Scorsese has been using the Stones since Mean Streets and to great effect. As soon as permission became available, Scorsese featured John Lennon’s music, and stories, in The Departed. Scorsese directed what is considered to be the greatest concert movie ever produced, The Last Waltz, which featured the band The Band.

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Vinyl has access to music from Atlantic Records and Warner Bros. records, which cut a wide variety of sides in all genres. Hit the drop down for the reference guide for each individual episode! Click the blue episode titles to get taken to our full review!

Please note that we had to break this up over multiple pages because of all of the media embedded in the article.

Ready? Hey-ho…

 Vinyl Episode 1: Pilot

Bobby Cannavale plays Richie Finestra, the label head of the fictional American Century Records. He is at least partially based on Marty Thau. Six months after Thau quit his job at Paramount records he took his wife to see “five guys dressed as women in horrible makeup and jewelry” play at the Mercer Arts Center. He was managing the New York Dolls almost before they got off stage.

Marty Thau

Thau got the New York Dolls a residency at The Mercer Arts Center. This was a small trend at the time. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played every Wednesday afternoon at the Garrick Theater on Bleecker St. The Fugs played seven nights a week at the Players Theater on MacDougal Street. The Velvet Underground played around the block twice a night, five days a week at Max’s Kansas City. The New York Dolls had a regular Tuesday-night gig in the Oscar Wilde Room of the Mercer Arts Center.

The Mercer Arts Center kicked The New York Dolls out in 1972 because they didn’t want rock music in the small theaters that earned the space a reputation as “the Lincoln Center of Off-Broadway.” The building the center was housed in, the Grand Central Hotel, was 123 years old. It was built on the site of the old Lafarge Hotel, which housed the Winter Garden Theatre and was destroyed in a fire on March 23, 1867. The Grand Central was one of the largest and most magnificent hotels on the Western Continent when it was built. It had degenerated into a welfare hotel by the late ’60s. The building collapsed just after five p.m. on Friday August 9, 1973.

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Collapse of the The Grand Central in 1973

The New York Dolls were not playing when the building came down. They were out of town. The collapse happened hours before the theaters were due to be filled. Hotel residents Herbert Whitehead, Kay Parker, and Arthur and Peggy Sherwin were killed in the incident. It prompted Mayor John Lindsay to have the building commission evaluate the safety of all pre-1901-structures in the city.

Led Zeppelin, guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham, formed out of the ruins of the Yardbirds. Session guitarist Page joined replacef bassist Paul Samwell-Smith in 1966 and switched to guitar. He traded his bass to Chris Dreja and leads with Jeff Beck. When Beck quit to go solo in October 1966 and drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf left, the New Yardbirds became a supergroup that jammed with the Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle, Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott before the pulled in session bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones to cut “Beck’s Bolero.” Page and Dreja wanted Terry Reid to sing lead, but he suggested Robert Plant from the Band of Joy and Hobbstweedle. Plant brought in Band of Joy drummer John Bonham.

In 1973, when Vinyl takes place Led Zeppelin filmed three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York for the film The Song Remains the Same. Just before the last show, $203,000 was stolen from the band. The band sued the Drake Hotel.

Vinyl also mentions the Mile-High-Club, or in Ray Romano’s character’s cast, the four-foot-blub. Led Zeppelin hired a former United Airlines Boeing 720B passenger jet called The Starship for thee tour. Zep broke the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 on that tour when they played to 56,800 fans at Tampa Stadium, Florida, on May 5, 1973.

– Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant was pretty much as you see him. An angry Brit. He started out as a stagehand for the Croydon Empire Theatre until 1953 when he got drafted and rose to the rank of corporal in the RAOC. Grant used to wrestle under names “Count Massimo” and “Count Bruno Alassio of Milan” for a while and acted in such films as A Night to RememberThe Guns of Navarone and and appeared on TV shows like The SaintCrackerjackDixon of Dock Green, and The Benny Hill Show