When Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter last collaborated on a TV show for HBO it resulted in the period gangster classic Boardwalk Empire so it’s no surprise that HBO were keen to reunite with the pair on a new project. Fortunately for us, that new project included a certain Mr. Mick Jagger and author Rich Cohen joining Scorsese and Winter for Vinyl, a rip roaring journey around the 1970’s music industry in New York City.
So with New York being a bit of a trek on a wet Tuesday night we did the next best thing to celebrate the release of Vinyl: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray and DVD and took a trip on the London Rock Tours bus with our very amiable and knowledgeable guide Bob in the driver’s seat.
Whilst The King’s Road in Chelsea these days is about as rock n’ roll as a garden party at your nan’s, back in the 60’s and 70’s it was the number one place for aspiring and established rock bands to be. Always an affluent area it comes as something of a surprise to discover that all the bright young things of the burgeoning rock scene were able to afford to live in and around this fancy post code. Bob informs us that unlike today’s scandalous price of living in London, post-war Britain saw the selling off of basements which allowed for the country’s hip yoof to move in and turn the area into a hub of rock n’ roll activity.
In Vinyl, head of American Century Records, Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale) is gripped by an insatiable appetite for pharmaceuticals and the sixties and seventies saw young Londoners experimenting with whatever narcotics they could get their hands on. The Rolling Stones famously lived in a grotty shared flat in Edith Road - which Bob points out to us - and we’re shown along a number of high street shops, banks and restaurants that were once the locations linked with the rise of British rock n’ roll. A McDonalds was once a pharmacy that used foxy ladies on bikes to deliver drugs to those looking to score and it is apparently the inspiration for the Stones classic, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Well, if McD’s run out of nuggets at least the staff can sing it back to their patrons.
Bob is a veritable fountain of knowledge about this fertile era of creativity in London. A number of anecdotes involve Princess Margaret who is alleged to have partied with some of the biggest names in rock (and had one or two dalliances with a couple of them if rumours are to be believed). We end the tour back in Soho at The Toucan Bar in Carlisle Street, a small Irish bar that drips with rock n’ roll history. We head for the intimate basement where Jimi Hendrix famously played and we silently curse the fact we’re 40+ years too late to have experienced the most vibrant, creative and innovative period of music the city had seen. Yep. Our parents have every right to feel smug.
Vinyl is available on Blu-ray and DVD now, courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment and you can find more information on London Rock Tours here.