Sunday night’s premiere of HBO’s new series Vinyl—which focuses on the record industry in 1973 New York—met with disparate responses from viewers. Audiences appeared to love the authenticity of the set design and costuming, but were disappointed in the performances, anachronisms, and soapy nature of the proceedings. (Perhaps Mad Men has spoiled us all with its attention to period detail and more subtle delivery.) Sterogum asked Richard Hell of the Neon Boys (who were mentioned in the premiere), as well as the Heartbreakers and Television, to review the pilot. Hell was right smack in the middle of the emerging punk scene and is for all intents and purposes the basis for Kip Stevens, lead singer of the Nasty Bits, as portrayed by James Jagger in Vinyl.
“I thought it was boring, I thought it was innocuous trash, but I may not be objective.” Hell wrote. “The show isn’t really about music, it’s about business, and business as understood by Martin Scorsese.”
Vinyl is the brainchild of Martin Scorsese, the young Jagger, and Terence Winter, who was the showrunner for Boardwalk Empire. “As we know, Martin Scorsese is cynical about business, or organized crime, or the police force or whatever you want to call it,” Hell continued. “I respect and admire Scorsese, but I get tired of his relentless framing of life as nothing but competition among men for power—represented by money, willingness to betray and kill, cocaine, and pussy.”
The proto-punk elder statesman was decidedly not a fan, but he’s not above soapy stories. “I’m just telling you, for juicy music-biz trash entertainment go to Fox’s Empire.”
Vinyl’s second episode airs Sunday night on HBO.