Taking a spin on 1970s rock

Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde (both above), is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese and singer Mick Jagger.
Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde (both above), is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese and singer Mick Jagger.PHOTO: HBO ASIA
Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde, is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese (above) and singer Mick Jagger.
Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde, is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese (above) and singer Mick Jagger.PHOTO: REUTERS
Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde, is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese and singer Mick Jagger (above, at the New York premiere of Vinyl last month with his son James, who also acts in the series).
Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde, is created by film-maker Martin Scorsese and singer Mick Jagger (above, at the New York premiere of Vinyl last month with his son James, who also acts in the series).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Film-maker Martin Scorsese and rocker Mick Jagger's television drama Vinyl took almost 10 years to get off the ground because it was first conceived as a movie

In a match made in rock 'n' roll heaven, rock singer Mick Jagger and film-maker Martin Scorsese - each renowned in his field - have teamed up to produce Vinyl, a television drama about the wild sex- and drug-addled music industry in the 1970s.

Speaking to The Straits Times and other press in Los Angeles, Jagger, Scorsese and the cast of the show talk about their intense nostalgia for the music of the era, which included rock as well as disco, funk and the early stirrings of hip-hop and punk. The show debuts in Singapore on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) next Monday.

Jagger, the 72-year-old lead singer of the legendary British rock band The Rolling Stones, had already collaborated once with 73-year-old Scorsese, the Oscar- winning film-maker behind Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990) and The Departed (2006).

Scorsese directed the band's 2008 concert documentary, Shine A Light, but the rock star had an idea for a 1970s drama told through the eyes of an executive at a struggling record label based in New York.

The project took a while to get off the ground, however - not least because it was originally conceived as a film, Jagger reveals.

"The genesis of this really was an idea I had years ago that I took to Marty," says the singer, who came to understand the wheeling-and- dealing side of the industry when he became actively involved in the Stones' own business affairs in the 1960s.

"We got really screwed in the 1960s, so I had to become involved," he says. "I got really involved in record companies, how they work, who was good, who was bad, who paid who, who screwed who, who ended up with the money."

What he learnt became the basis of Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, 2010-2014) as the beleaguered executive, Olivia Wilde (House, 2004-2012) as his wife and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, 1996-2005) as one of the other executives at the label.

But initially, "we tried to develop it as a movie, and we developed and developed and wrote scripts", Jagger says.

Then "when TV series started becoming interesting, respectable and money-making, we decided to make it a series".

For him and Scorsese, mutual admiration and a common vision made working together a no- brainer.

The musician describes his producing partner - with whom he also co-wrote the Vinyl pilot - as one of the first movie directors who "really used rock 'n' roll" in his films - "like wall-to-wall".

"Before Marty, people used music occasionally, like rock music and other kinds of popular music, but not really like he did."

Scorsese returns the compliment, saying he has drawn inspiration from Jagger's music in his work too.

"I'm his audience and that music - from when I first heard it and all the way through the 1970s and 1980s until now - was basically the inspiration for a lot of the visualisations I had of scenes from one of my films."

To have come of age with rock 'n' roll as the soundtrack of one's youth means "you see life around you played to that music", and this is why "music becomes part of the narrative" on Vinyl, says Scorsese, who also used music prominently in his most recent high-profile project, the Oscar-nominated film The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) - another sex and drugs-infused tale set in the recent past.

Romano, 58, shares the director's nostalgia for the music of the 1970s. "The music connected me to a very important time in my life. I reached puberty, manhood, fell in love, fell out of love," he says.

Scorsese directs the two-hour pilot episode and, together with Jagger, helped select the music for the entire series, which features fictional characters as well as some based on real acts such as Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, and music from the period as well as original tracks composed for the show.

The drama is already drawing comparisons with the hit series Empire, another music-industry drama that combines real and fictional characters.

But while the success of the latter has boosted the popularity of hip-hop - or at least the catchy original tunes written for the series - Jagger is not sure Vinyl can do the same for rock.

Asked if he thinks it can help redeem the genre for those who believe it is dying, the star - who is currently on tour with The Rolling Stones in Latin America - shrugs and says it is merely "a good TV show".

"I don't know what's going to happen in music."

  • Vinyl debuts in Singapore on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) next Monday at 10pm.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Taking a spin on 1970s rock'. Print Edition | Subscribe