How Does 'Vinyl' Stack Up Against the Real Deal?

How Does 'Vinyl' Stack Up Against the Real Deal?


How Does 'Vinyl' Stack Up Against the Real Deal? news
How Does 'Vinyl' Stack Up Against the Real Deal? news
Jimmy Page at Led Zeppelin's legendary Madison Square Garden gig in 1973. The concert is recreated briefly in the pilot for HBO's rock drama 'Vinyl.' David Redfern/Getty

Much like Mad Men, half the fun of Vinyl is in the trainspotting. The art direction is remarkable: historic venues are recreated with awesome attention to detail, real-life-rock-star doppelgangers swagger through scenes,  and all manner of Seventies fashion disasters are reanimated. And the soundtrack, similarly true to the time, is a brilliant mix of the inspirational and the insipid. Here’s a cheat sheet on some of the facts behind the fictions.

Led Zeppelin Plays Madison Square Garden, 1973
TV Version: In the show’s pilot, set in 1973, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) visits Robert Plant at the Garden to talk him into signing with his label. Later, we see cameras filming as the band blasts through “Somethin’ Else.”

Real Story: Zep played three sold-out shows at the Garden in July 1973, shot for the concert doc The Song Remains the Same.

The Man Known as “Maury Gold”
TV Version:
Finestra’s first boss, seen in flashbacks, is a label owner with ties to thugs with Italian surnames.

Real Story: The character is likely based on Morris Levy, the notorious boss of Roulette Records. Levy had links to the Genovese crime family and allegedly terrified and swindled Tommy James.

Kool Herc and the Birth of Hip-Hop
TV Version:
One evening, Finestra’s limo passes an apartment building – number 1520 – from which funky, jump-cut DJ music is blasting. 

How Does 'Vinyl' Stack Up Against the Real Deal? news
David Johansen In Recording Studio, 1974 Waring Abbott/Getty

Real Story: On August 11th, 1973, Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell DJ’d hard-funk records in the rec room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, a party generally credited to be the first hip-hop jam. 

The New York Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center
TV Version:
Finestra watches as the New York Dolls rock the Mercer so hard it literally collapses.

Real Story: The building that housed Mercer crumbled on August 3rd, 1973. The Dolls, who often played the venue, weren’t there. 

Velvet Underground at the Dom, 1966
TV Version:
In a flashback, Richie meets his future wife at a venue resembling the East Village club as the VU play “Venus in Furs.”

Real Story: The Velvets’ 1966 residency at the Dom marked Nico’s first performances with the band.

The Polygram Record Merger
TV Version: German PolyGram execs are ready to buy American Century Records, until Finestra, still raging on a bender, crashes into the conference room, calls one a Nazi, and squashes the deal.

Real Story: In the early Seventies, the German company Siemans and the Dutch company Phillips create a joint music venture, PolyGram, that begins buying up American labels.

From The Archives Issue 1255: February 25, 2016