Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, and Terence Winter spin a stunning rock 'n' roll tale in "Vinyl"

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09 February 2016

HBO, Feb. 14, 9:00 PM

By Lori Acken

The sensory feast that is HBO’s thrilling new drama “Vinyl” is the product of a creative collaboration that reaches back to 1995 when Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger first mulled a feature film that would delve deep into what he knew best: the gritty reality of the music business and the characters who made it crackle and hum.

Jagger took his idea to Martin Scorsese — a master of blending music and cinema into intensely affecting experiences — who added his “Boardwalk Empire” collaborator Terence Winter to the mix in 2007. The trio weathered issues of timing and economics that led them to reimagine the project as a TV series. The fruits of that patience and partnership are unveiled when “Vinyl,” the group’s love letter to the cultural kaleidoscope that was 1970s New York, premieres Sunday.

Olivia Wilde and Bobby Cannavale dazzle as Devon and Richie Finestra. A lifelong music aficionado, Richie is founder and chief of American Century Records, a company suffering rock ’n’ roll’s assault on its bubblegum roster even as Richie adds younger talent-spotters to his payroll. Haunted by a lost friendship and addictions he barely holds at bay, Richie’s solace is suburban life with Devon, a former Andy Warhol intimate.

“Devon and Richie got sober together, and they’re both sober within this world — this debauchery,” Wilde explained during a recent phone interview. “It is revealed through flashbacks why they have to be so careful about their sobriety together. When Richie breaks that promise, their entire world falls off its axis.”

“What attracted me to the show in the first place is that it’s all very much high-stakes,” added Cannavale during an HBO event at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “Everything that’s happening in the show — Richie’s circumstances, the circumstances of the record label — is desperate. Same with this relationship.”

Jagger, Scorsese and Winter (who haunted famed punk rock incubator CBGB as a Brooklyn-born teen) committed themselves to showing an equally unvarnished New York City circa 1973 — “something that can only be told honestly from the perspective of people who actually lived it,” says Wilde. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that concert sequences are each a tour de force, shot with a dreamlike intimacy that lets the viewer climb both into the room and inside Richie’s mind as he revels in the sensations that drive him most. “That’s who this guy is — his entire reason for being,” says Cannavale. “He is connected to the music in a very visceral way and on a very primal level.”

Cannavale understands. “I don’t usually like to talk a lot about what I bring from my own life into it,” he smiles, “but I do think about music pretty much all day every day.”
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