Vinyl season 1, episode 3.
This Vinyl review contains spoilers.
Episode 3 of Vinyl doesn’t start off auspiciously for Richie. His wife finds out about the undone deal after a bad joke and his mentor thinks Richie should get his head examined.
Everybody thinks they’re a comedian in the industry and when the record labels get together to celebrate Maury Gold (Paul Ben-Victor) it’s an open invitation to a roast. That stunt that American Century Records pulled on Polygram has become the stuff of legend in the music world and Richie Finestra is teetering very close to being a laughingstock. But it gives Bobby Cannavale a chance to pull one of his patented Gyp Rosetti faces. When the camera pans from Finestra’s face to his POV looking at the empty setting for Buck Rogers the first thing that popped into my mind was how Richie might like to dance on the flowery bullshit-spouting record honcho Jackie Jervis’ (Ken Marino) head like he saw happen to the radio guy.
The Who have always been just rock opera away from being an Abbot and Costello routine. Don’t get me wrong, I love the band, but when Richie asks music man Julie Silver (Max Casella) who’s next on the list of soon-to-be dead artists, he is just asking for mouth off. Captain Video Finestra wants to move into the present and is being dragged by a heavy downbeat. The group is pulling out all the stops to bring the label back on top of the pops. Whether it’s recording an Elliot Gould Christmas album for the hairy chest cover or releasing “His Heavenly Cuticles” as a follow-up to the Christian rock recording of “His Heavenly Hands.” Record executives have no mercy.
Richie doesn’t have a clear idea on the future either. He tells his publicist to come up with a name for a new vanguard label that screams “this is where it’s at” and the guy gives him names that harken back at least a generation. Meanwhile, Richie doodles fantasy names like Sonic records, Boom Boom Records, Howlin Records and Hot Shot Records, all of which sound like names that would have put out the golden oldies of the fifties. He also wants to release the lost blues recordings of his cha cha twisting old friend.
Lester (Ato Essandoh) dropped a bomb on Finestra. He’s still hurting from having the local thugs dance on his epiglottis but his ears are still working fine. While he’s hanging with some of the older soul brothers, a young DJ is scratching records and catching the grooves that match Kool and the Gang with James Brown. Lester sees that that the kid is still finding the right mix but he knows to let the kid keep trying. There’s something in that musical mesh that can make something new and he’ll know it when he hears it. It’s hard seeing the blues man trying to get his throat around Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You, Baby” and getting lost in what might have been.
Clark Morelle (Jack Quaid) runs into Alice Cooper (Dustin Ingram) while he’s re-recording a England Dan and John Ford Cody for a soundtrack that they could just as easily have supplied the original. The Alice subplot is one of the best things in the episode, like the lst whiskey of the night, Seagrams VO or snuggling up with Eva Marie Snake. They run into the New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunder, who has daddy issues. They never go away. The future Godfather of Shock Rock lets Clark assuage his ego, put on eye makeup, work on his handicap and even finish his beers as he springs a trap worthy of a Black Widow spider. The payoff is classic rock and you just know heads will roll. The guillotine bit is the best. It is exactly what rock and roll fans would expect from the king of shock rock. How many melons must give their lives to feed Alice’s ego? He invented Gallagher.
The Nasty Bits bit is kind of forced. When Jamie (Juno Temple) is yelling that the band’s rendition of the Kink’s “All Day and of the Night” isn’t working, the band hadn’t messed up the sound, the groove or even the arrangement. It was actually more interesting starting with just the bass. It is a rock and roll movie shortcut because Mick wouldn’t let people really hear what his son would sound like fronting a band that is really messing up a song. There are no missed beats or unintentional dissonance. The audience doesn’t like it because the characters don’t like it and we accept that. The band gets kicked out of the rehearsal room, a restaurant that Jamie has a history with, the blond prostitute that she is. But the music is TV punk, not real punk.
Meanwhile, back in the suburbs, Devon (Olivia Wilde) sells her Warhol portrait for a bunch of prima ballerinas. Under the unforgiving glare of the cameras which catch her every emotion, she tries to get Andy to sign it so it will fetch more cash. Her suburban elite friends only want more. Maybe she could convince Warhol to run some paint through a silk screen for more product to auction, whey suggest. But Andy already offered to sign Devon’s dress because people would buy that too.
Alice cooper sings “I Love the Dead” as the body of Buck Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay) comes home to roost. Maury and mob cohort Corrado Galasso (Armen Garo) pay a visit to American Century to probe a detective’s recent inquiry. Maury had already told Richie to get his head examined, but he’s not crazy enough to take a loan from Galasso. This is funny to you? Richie is a standup guy and assures Galasso that he was a dead end. He assures the crime boss that the detective was only fishing
Dolphins fuck? Gazelles sing? Joe Corso (Bo Dietl) may be a great record promotion man but he’s still learning about common frames of reference. You can’t always tell where the veiled references end and the threats and reminders begin. Dietl plays Corso as more funny than frightening, which gives the heavy some weight. Corso drops by to pitch Richie a demo by his banquet date, Nora (Bianca Madison). The punchline is that the singer lets us hear what a gazelle singing sounds like.