HBO’s Vinyl: Episode 1-07: The King and I – Recap & Review

Richie and Zak hit Vegas to land the Big Fish aka The King

Richie and Zak hit Vegas to land the Big Fish aka The King

This a recap/review with some spoilers and some opinions.

The promise was there. After all, hadn’t Richie Finestra hit rock bottom in the previous episode (Episode 1-06 – Cyclone). Non-stop blow and other abuses had pushed him so far down into the sink-hole that his wife had taken the kids and left him. His life now included the hallucinatory imagery of an old friend that Richie had killed in an auto-accident caused by drugs. That would be Ernst.

But it went beyond just that. His relationship with his business partner and the co-founder of ACR, Zack Yankovich, a relationship that was already on the rocks because Richie had backed out of the Polygram deal, was in the midst of sinking into the abyss.

Richie had shown up way too late to Yankovich’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, and Zak had thrown Richie to the floor in a fit of anger.

Go destroy your own family, you’ve already destroyed mine. Oh wait, you’ve already done that, said Yankovich.

Where else could Richie go? Surely, when you hit rock bottom, a turn-around usually happens. Or is supposed to happen. Maybe not so much in real life, but in television….?

At the monthly business meeting, Skip announced that, despite the cutbacks and staff reductions, they wouldn’t be able to make this month’s payroll – a figure quoted as $33K.

Someone suggested that Richie give up his apartment in the city.

Richie: I need that place, I’m out to all hours of the night, and it’s not my apartment – it’s the company apartment.
Skip: Then how come I never get to stay there? What’s the rent?
Richie: $1100 a month.

By the standards of living in the city at that time – that was a luxury apartment. Me? I lived on the Upper East Side – and paid just $200 a month in 1973 for a small one-bedroom.

So a plan was hatched. They would sell the rights to the corporate jet that they were leasing for $100K and the buyer would take over the lease payments.And that took them out to LA. And the $100 K they’d come away with would almost cover three months of the ACR salaries.

Sounds like a plan and things immediately brightened. We heard and watched Jan & Dean’s Surf City. You know the lyrics – Two girls for every boy.

What we didn’t know at the time we heard it, that those five words would be a huge clue as to what would happen later in the episode. Then we heard Jackson Browne singing – Doctor My Eyes

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand…

‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams

While this Jackson Browne song wasn’t really an optimistic song, it did signify a spiritual search was in the works.

Did that mean that Richie Finestra would turn the corner? He was already off the blow and had also given up booze. It was a beginning, wasn’t it?

The buyer of the plane had invited them out to his beach pad in Malibu. We saw Gram Parsons, Stephen Stills, and even Neil Young plus Mickey Dolenz  and Mama Cass – not really, but at least the actors used had a likeness to the originals.

Also at this party, we overheard that The King – Elvis Presley – was unhappy with his label RCA. That got Richie’s attention. Presley was now doing his thing in Las Vegas. In 1973 he was 38 years old. He now performed for an older crowd, and although Vinyl didn’t go into any of Elvis’s problems (he’d be dead four years later in 1977) – the show did show us that Elvis was far from happy, that he had become something of a caricature of his younger days, and he was still under the control of Col. Tom Parker.

So Richie and Zak, along with two bimbos they picked up at the pool at the hotel in LA , were soon touching down in Las Vegas. Richie had a plan – they would promise Elvis a return to what he loved = rock ‘n roll music, and sign him to their label American Century Records.

When Zak stated that Elvis was big and made BIG BIG money, Richie said – We’ll worry about that AFTER we have him sign the contracts.

Richie meets Col. Parker in the Vegas hotel lobby and it is all arranged. Parker would call them later, and Richie would then meet with Elvis after the show. But Elvis was now doing songs like Polk Salad Annie, and was beginning to look a bit bloated, and in truth, Elvis wasn’t a happy camper. Speaking of which, he wasn’t a camper either.

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HBO’s New Series – Vinyl

Back in the 70’s, I lived in New York, was part of the work force, and I listened to music. I didn’t do the club scene, nor the disco scene, nor was I a card-carrying member, invested or otherwise, in the world known as Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll.

I knew of Max’s Kansas City on Park Avenue South which would close in December of 1974, forcing Andy Warhol and his entourage to find a new hangout. I went there once.

CBGB’s on The Bowery, would open in 1973 and I believe I went there once as well. I attended one or two concerts at the Palladium on East 14th Street which had originally been called the Academy of Music.

I would see Van Morrison at the Palladium on October 6th, 1979. I would see the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East on September 23rd, 1970,

and I would see both The Beach Boys and the Allman Brothers bands in Central Park, in 1977 and in 1971 respectively.

It wasn’t that I was on the outside of the music scene looking in. Instead, I was just on the outside.

So when the news broke about HBO, Martin Scorsese, and Mick Jagger joining forces to produce a TV series about the music business in those days so long ago, I didn’t jump out of my shoes with excitement.

Oh, I would definitely plan to see the series, but not for the memories. Rather I’d see it because watching and writing is what I do these days.

Created and produced by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen, and Terence Winter, Vinyl is more than just a walk on the wild side, or a trip onto those mean streets of New York which for most New Yorkers – the streets that were both real and/or imagined.

Vinyl is the story of Richie Finestra, the CEO of American Century Records. Finestra is played by Bobby Cannavale who simply commands your attention every second he’s on the screen. Let’s make that explicitly clear – Cannavale as Finestra is so good that he elevates the series all by himself.

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