Vinyl season 1, episode 8.
This Vinyl review contains spoilers.
Vinyl’s episode 8 is entitled “E.A.B.” As guitarist Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh) explains to the guitarists in The Nasty Bits, E A B is the foundation of all guitar based rhythm, blues, rock and roll. E.A.B. is the root, fourth and fifth, I-IV-V, of all evil. Jimi Hendrix may have tuned his guitar to an Eb, but even he rolled those bones. Songwriters put skin, muscle and hair on that skeleton. The episode opens with The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” which, though written in A, also adds spirit to the mix. Not only does George Harrison add intricately moving chords to the progression, his time changes make it one of the most accessible prog songs ever written.
Former Moondog John Lennon is the rock star of the week. In the midst of his lost weekend with May Pang, Devon (Olivia Wilde) and Ingrid (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) aim a camera as a fun weapon of near seduction on him while he’s grooving on the reggae of the legendary Bob Marley. Again, Vinyl is playing into rock and roll fantasies. What would be the most fun time to run into an ex-Beatle? While he’s in the middle of the things he loves the most after making music: having a few laughs while enjoying somebody else making music. It’s almost like the meeting with Elvis (Shawn Klush) last week, with the king of rock and roll aching for a pared down band. It is a rock dream.
Devon uses the celebrity sighting to snatch Billy McVicar’s (Richard Short) camera and wrangle a dark room dip in his chemicals. She figures the Lennon photo she snapped will pay her artsy Chelsea Hotel rent for at least a month. Or until the next time one of her kids drops a beloved pet down a staircase to test gravity. Ah entitled kids of rich parents, is there nothing they can’t do?
Andrea (Annie Parisse) turns out to be an unwitting exorcist as she cuts off the head of publicity after he rises to the level of his incompetence. If only Hal Underwood (Jay Klaitz) had used his wizardry for promotion pitches instead of evil, he might have been onto something. Andrea was looking for something new and fresh and a satanic label launch might not have been too far left path to make an impression. Even if some of his curse sounded like a castoff curse from Servilia of the Junii from HBO’s Rome. Maybe Zak can turn his new protégé, Xavier, into an early Marilyn Manson. They were out there. The tense altercation scene was set to the music of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” which gave it an interesting counterpoint.
I had a feeling Kip (James Jagger) was going to nip the Lester number as soon as it stood out in the classic rock medley. It’s not TV, it’s HBO, but it’s still TV, even if they do show the Nasty Bits. Clark (Jack Quaid) colonializing Jorge (Christian Navarro) to get him out of the mailroom was also telegraphed far in advance.
Julie Silver (Max Casella), who happened to be at the bar when Devon met Lennon, keeps his yap shut about it but does a great little Popeye laugh impression that I almost missed because I was giggling over Richie’s (Bobby Cannavale) spinach line. The two cops see themselves as a combination Martin and Lewis and Siskel and Ebert. Michael Drayer, who plays Detective Renk here and played the bright college shakedown artist Jason Parisi on The Sopranos, is playing such a cynical asshole he could be Stan’s best friend on South Park. And playing is the operative word. He’s always casting for a line to hook his prey. If he doesn’t snag Finestra outright, I can see him pitching a comedy album.
Meanwhile Richie is running around like he’s Sherlock Holmes, looking up his nose for a clue to the mystery dance. Pairing Bobby Cannavale with former standup comedian Ray Romano in the conversation about better living through chemistry makes it a subtle homage to a Cheech and Chong movie bit.
I’m rooting for Zak. Romano has infused this character with so much pathos, he could be a musketeer. His comic delivery is obviously always on target, that’s his bread and butter, but he’s been underutilized when he’s been on Parenthood and other shows, which curbed his comic edge. Letting him play both sides against the middle is a sure thing and his excitement is contagious. He sold the scene in the restaurant as much and maybe more than the vocal performance and the echo. He projected the rush of a teenage crush, in a manly way of course, like he was hearing “In the Still of the Night” for the first time.
I mention the Five Satins’ 1955 hit because it used to be the number one song on every poll at the New York City oldies station CBS-FM during its heyday. Joey Ramone used to say, in interviews, that it didn’t matter when you turned on CBS, within ten minutes of listening you’d hear a song you loved. Who else could they be talking about? CBS was the only oldies station in the city. On Vinyl, it seems like Maury (Paul Ben-Victor) and Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo) are picking those hits and Corso (Bo Dietl) is stuffing the ballot box. But gangsters and rock and roll are old friends, going back to the days when “Crazy” Joe Gallo pushed platters for jukeboxes in all of south Brooklyn in the early fifties. Listen to the music, as Bob Marley warns, you can fool some people some time, but I think Galasso is setting Richie up for a bustout.
“E.A.B.” was an active movement in the series. While the American Century Records staff are finding their way forward, Richie is folding up in the middle.
“E.A.B.” was written by Riccardo DiLoreto and Michael Mitnick and directed by Jon S. Baird.