Vinyl season 1, episode 2.
This Vinyl review contains spoilers.
Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is still in the throes of his sonic spiritual experience as episode 2 of Vinyl, “Yesterday Once More” opens. The music man is showing off his martial arts skills to a largely unenthusiastic audience of Bruce Lee fans. Once again Richie shows that he is a step ahead of the music crowd because Carl Douglas wouldn’t release the single “Kung Fu Fighting” until 1974. The American Century Records head will put those moves to good use.
Finestra is either riding high on the post-traumatic stress disorder or just slowly coming down from a trip through the musical looking glass. Last week’s full-movie-long pilot had him caught up in the excitement of the sounds of the street. It wasn’t the band, exactly. American Century Records already passed on the New York Dolls. It was the atmosphere. New waves of music were coming in from all directions and the entire staff of the label was missing it because their ears were attached to their heads, which were up their asses, muffling the noise. The excursion brings Richie into the now and he wants his staff to come with him.
The now isn’t exactly so hot, to be honest. The Mercer Arts Center wasn’t the only thing that hit Richie in the head. The downtown theater was only paying it forward. Richie and his overzealous promotions man Joe Corso, played by Bo Dietl, came down on radio station syndicate owner Frank “Buck” Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay) after a three-day coke binge until his skull caved in like a 125-year-old city hotel over a subway line. Richie’s wife Devon, played by Olivia Wilde, is quite content to do a little head bashing herself when he returns from the binge on the fringe. If only she knew the half of it.
The other half includes a possible murder rap and a definite nail in Finestra’s professional coffin. After holding up the Polygram Nazis for hours while he took in Bruce Lee, he attempts to shove a hard won contract into at least one of their orifices. Richie was mugged by god and wound up lifting His wallet and is flush enough to let the money ride rather than cash out.
Devon is caught up in the velvet underground of her own reveries. She was drawn to Richie because he saw through the bullshit of the sixties pop scene and now here she is fantasizing about Karen Carpenter, the epitome of 70s middle of the road music, riding shotgun and softly crooning about the past. Poor Karen looks too skinny to play Louise to any Thelma, but she might be down for driving off a cliff. Devon and Richie first hooked up against the walls in a bathroom of one of Andy Warhol’s club hangouts. Devon was fresh off making an artsy film with Nico, the Velvet Underground’s guest vocalist and Warhol is a possessive collector. Devon’s still got an eye for destructive art though, rearranging the guitar that Richie smashed through the TV just right.
That album that Richie breaks over his knee is Passion Play, a prog rock classic from Jethro Tull. Sadly, it didn’t make the hairs on Richie’s neck stand on end.
Movies are great educators and Bruce Lee is a master teacher. Finestra gets in a couple of really good shots and we cheer as attorney Scott Levitt (P.J. Byrne) takes it on a glass jaw. Skip Fontaine (J.C. MacKenzie), head of sales, does a good job knocking himself out. Richie tells the Polygram suits that the music industry is bleeding from the inside. The music man who went from cleaning Chubby Checker’s puke from a backstage toilet to eating rival record companies for breakfast has a dire prognosis for the future of music and it sounds terminal.
Nobody wants to see Ray Romano kill himself. Everybody loves him, right? Wooly mammoths don’t leave the car running in a closed garage while making it all better with valium. Zak Yankovich is probably the hardest hit by the dashed deal with German Polygram. The camera telegraphs the suicide attempt while Romano’s eyes fill in the story. It has been said that it’s easier for a comic actor to move into drama than other way around. Vice has given Andrew Dice Clay and Romano the chance to show their dramatic chops. ACR’s head of promotions finds that his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah might be one of the casualties from the Mercer falling on Finestra’s head.
How the fuck do I get ahead if I don’t give head, coffee and coke girl Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) wants to know. She snatched a tape from a raw band called Nasty Bits out of Richie’s inbox because she liked the way the singer Kip Stevens (James Jagger) looked. Now she’s gotta get him past Julie Silver (Max Casella) to pass his audition. Julie is Richie’s best enabler. Hell, he’s ready to jump on any runaway train and even help pick out the right concert t-shirt.
“Yesterday Once More” moves Vinyl into the series proper from the cinematic opening episode. The characters are getting more familiar and the camera continues to get intimate. The excitement is building and so are the stakes. Something big is going to break and the air is filled with promise and danger.
“Yesterday Once More” was written by Terence Winter and directed by Allen Coulter.