'Vinyl' episode 3 recap: The hits (of cocaine) keep coming

In episode 3 of HBO’s “Vinyl,” the hits kept on coming – unfortunately for Richie Finestra’s (Bobby Cannavale) American Century record company, all those hits were hits of cocaine.

The episode opens with Richie and his wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) at a lifetime achievement celebration for Richie’s former mentor. During the gala, one of the presenters (Ken Marino) lets it slip that Richie decided not to sell the company, which is news to Devon, who takes a swig of champagne. And the relapses begin. For a relationship based on sobriety, the Finestras are to clean living what Jim Croce is to metal music.

The scene flashes back to where episode 2 left off with Richie visiting Lester Grimes, the former soul singer, who apparently is now an apartment super instead of a music superstar. The question I was wondering last week – can Lester still sing? – was answered. Not really. The attack from the mob guys and Richie’s betrayal has left Grimes one downtrodden dude. He is still connected to the music industry though. He manages a few bands and DJs. So a partnership between Rich and Lester and happy ending to Lester’s story arc seem pretty likely.

“Vinyl” continues to work in heavy-handed symbols and they pulled off a classic as the scene shift back to the present day with an increasingly desperate (read: coked up) Richie in the bathroom of the awards gala staring into a sink as water spirals down the drain. Get it? Down the drain? It’s called a metaphor.

It’s apparent that part of the reason (besides the collapse of American Century) that Richie is doing literally ALL of the blow in NYC, is the stress from his involvement in the murder of Buck Rogers (Andrew Dice Clay). A quick flash of a bloody Buck appears as Richie stares at the drain.

Meanwhile, Richie is trying to stop the bleeding at American Century by cutting 70 percent of the company’s talent roster. Donny Osmond gets to stay. As does Dr. Hook, Thin Lizzy, Johnny Winter, but Status Quo  gets the axe. Richie’s team is obviously not happy about the financial hit they are all taking. And they let him know by reminding him the company is worth approximately “negative dogshit.” Richie’s solution? A bullshit Robert Goulet Christmas album. Because that’s the answer to most problems. Later, Devon takes the reigns and tries to solve some of the family’s money problems by visiting her old friend Andy Warhol and obtaining his signature on a portrait he made for her so she can sell it. John Cameron Mitchell (“Girls,” “Hedwig and the Angry Itch”) does a pretty nice Warhol. He makes the character – who, in other actors’ hands has come off as simply manipulative, aloof or bitchy – pretty sympathetic.

One thing that “Vinyl” continues to struggle with is the forced introduction of famous musicians into the story. Lester is hanging out in the basement of his apartment building as a young DJ mans the turntables. Lester defends the DJ against the criticism of some older guys who just want to hear the records. “Keep trying Herc,” Lester says.

The parade of famous rock stars continues with an Alice Cooper appearance. Clark the engineer from American Century tries to be a hero by attempting to convince the Godfather of Shock Rock to leave his band and sign with American Century as a solo artist. What follows is a pretty amusing set of scenes as Cooper plays the long con on Clark, which eventually results in Clark in the band’s mock guillotine as they rehearse their live show. Cooper explains he’s been leading Clark on this whole time as revenge for a series of snubs from Richie years ago. It was a highlight of episode 3. Plus, Andrew W.K. recorded an Alice cover for the show.

The story line with the The Nasty Bits progresses as Max Casela’s (who is pretty great as usual) character Julie, and Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) continue to work with the band. Julie’s attempts at polishing up the raw energy of the proto-punk band is all for naught as Richie totally dismisses them as they perform a straight ahead version of The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.” Jaime – who has her finger on the coked-up pulse of the new punk scene – urges to band to let it loose and when they comply Richie’s ears perk up.

Joe Corso – the thug who killed Andrew Dice Clay’s character in the first episode – makes an appearance. Anyone hoping for more Dice got their wish – for one second – as a bloody Buck shows up. Turns out the cops found his body. Corso pretty much shakes down Richie to record his girlfriend, who he calls the next Petula Clark. Surprise – she sucks. And now it looks like Richie is going to have to have some sort of confrontation with Corso, since his witness to Rogers’ murder makes them brothers in blood.

That’s pretty much where episode 3 leave us. Richie listening to an awful demo version of Corso’ girlfriend singing Anne Murray’s “Danny’s Song.” Even though we ain’t got money…..Hey, look another super obvious symbol! The song changes from awful to excellent as the credits roll and Neko Case takes over. The classic rock covers are awesome. “Vinyl” does nail the music, which is what the show is all about anyway. Check out the ‘Vinyl” Spotify playlist.

What do you think of HBO’s “Vinyl” are you sticking with it or bailing?



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Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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