Is American Century A Real Record Label? 'Vinyl' Mixes Truth & Fiction
The new HBO series Vinyl, chronicling the changing 1970s music industry, premieres Sunday, Feb. 14. The show, with Mick Jagger at the helm, is drawing from the real atmosphere of the music industry in the 1970s to craft the storylines and depiction of the business. The show will follow Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, the founder and president of American Century Records. With the show being partly inspired by real life, just how much is true? Is American Century Records from Vinyl a real label?
Before we see how the story unfolds on HBO, it is hard to say what exactly is fact and what is fiction, though we do know it is the brainchild of Jagger and Martin Scorsese. In 2006, the musician and director, who’s made music documentaries about the era, decided they wanted to tell “an epic tale” chronicling two friends' 40-year careers in the music industry, from “the early days of R&B to contemporary hip-hop,” according to Vulture. The article also explained that the series was dubbed the “History of Music” project and resided at Paramount for some time before landing at HBO. Here, the dynamic duo added Terence Winter, acclaimed Boardwalk Empire and Wolf of Wall Street writer.
So what is true in this “History of Music” project? While American Century is a completely fictional label according to many sources including Entertainment Weekly, other aspects of Vinyl are very real. Here are some of the familiar places and events that influenced HBO’s new series.
According to Vulture, “iconic locations” were re-created for the show. A Brooklyn storefront was styled to be a ’70s-era Sam Goody, vintage cars were spotted (along with phone booths and polyester clad extras), and Max's Kansas City, the Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground, Ramones, and Patti Smith joint, was “meticulously re-created” just blocks away from the original location.
Mick Jagger’s Own Experiences
Jagger told Rolling Stone that the series was 20 years in the making, and has been sort of a dream project for him. He also told the magazine that what we see of New York in the 1970s will come from both his own experiences there and research on the era, explaining, "You do your research ... And your research colors your memory."
A Jagger Stars
Jagger’s son, James Jagger, is a series regular on the show, playing Kip Stevens, the lead singer of fictional punk band “Nasty Bits.”
While the show is influenced by real events in the music biz and will chronicle music’s evolution in the ‘70s, including the beginnings of disco and punk, the series also has an extensive soundtrack with tons of hits from the period.
Rockstars As Characters
In addition to the fictional main characters like Richie Finestra, Vinyl will feature actors portraying real celebrities, as Mick Jagger told The Salt Lake Tribune. The newspaper lists Alice Cooper and Robert Goulet as examples, while the series' IMDb page features actors portraying people like David Bowie, Buddy Holly, Robert Plant, and more.
1970s New York
Jagger told Rolling Stone that he wanted to capture what New York was really like in the ‘70s. The article called 1970s New York the series’ “biggest star,” and Jagger described the setting in the interview as "a pretty raunchy place."
So while American Century is a fictional company, it exists in a very authentic portrayal of the music scene in 1970s New York.
Images: Macall B. Polay/HBO; HBO (5)