Perfect feminine face, flawless untrained voice, broken soul. Homegrown handsome, natural showman, easy-going control freak. Together, who are they? The chosen ones, front and center of a 70s rock band that changed the world if just for a little while. Daisy Jones & The Six explores the possibility of damaged people creating momentary perfection for a global audience, then living with the consequences of their many stupid decisions in between flashes of genius. Speaking of genius, neither the broken soul, nor the easy-going control freak would have become famous without the unsung instincts of one music producer who decided to put them together in a recording studio.
The Dunne brothers, scarred by their father’s abandonment, left with their tired mother and one beat-up old guitar in the eastern U.S., obsess over music into their adolescence. Then they put together a garage band that becomes a bar band, that becomes an LA sensation. Daisy Jones is a teenaged emotionally orphaned girl whose parents sit contentedly in a lavish home deliberately oblivious to their beautiful child who wanders the streets of LA, too vulnerable and too brave for her own good.
By the time the Dunne brothers are loving their LA reception, Daisy has been an unwilling muse to rock stars for a while. She’s sick of it and ready to do her own thing, her own way. She is a prolific drug user, unaware of her many addictions, and not completely impressed by the denim clad Billy Dunne who considers himself the beginning and end of his band’s fate.
The characters and setting of this story would be interesting enough in a traditional novel format, but author Taylor Jenkins Reid made the choice to present her fictional homage to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac as an “oral history”. The story is chronicled through a series of interview responses by members of the band, Daisy’s best friend, Billy’s wife, and music industry onlookers, pieced together without the interviewer interrupting the flow. These interview responses, to my delight, build imagery, establish distinct, individual voices and lovely character sketches, and create an absorbing narrative!
This is the second book I’ve read in seven days, and only the second book I’ve read cover to cover in a calendar year. When I got home from the bookstore last Sunday and noticed the format, noticed that it’s “loosely based on Fleetwood Mac”, I have to admit I groaned. I dreaded the thing so much that I saved it for second behind a book that claims a wild mash up of like five genres and “dizzying” plot twists. Fortunately, Taylor Jenkins Reid is a skilled writer who made some excellent choices. (As did the author of the “dizzying” plot twists mentioned above. Making me quite happily two for two on accidental book choices for the year, y’all!)
The icing on the book cake for me is the author’s inclusion of song lyrics at the back of the novel–songs that Daisy and Billy struggled through their addictions and emotions, and individual assholery to write together. My favorite is This Could Get Ugly:
The ugly you got in you
Well, I've got it too
You act like you ain't got a clue
But you do
Oh, we could be lovely
If this could get ugly.
Write a list of things you'll regret
I'd be at the top smoking a cigarette.
Oh, we could be lovely ...
I liked the insight into their song writing, especially how the lyrics remain simplistic yet convey all the right emotion and innuendo. Most song lyrics of the 70s were just that, simple, personal stories set to grinding, gorgeous guitars, keys, and thundering drums. The characters, while often incredibly self-absorbed and drug addled, stay true to the hopes of rock n’ roll when creating their songs. They want to tell a story, put on a great fucking show their fans will remember, then they want to do it again. It’s just all the stuff in between that ruins the magic that unsung music producer foresaw.
But the ruining of rock n’ roll magic is somewhat soothed by the revelations at the end of the book–the final few interview responses, the discussion between Billy and his eldest daughter (the interviewer), then Daisy, then a letter penned before the death of Billy’s wife. This all takes place 30+ years after the end of that phenomenal band in their brief glory days, and we get a peek at how each character didn’t accept the end of their band being the end of their talent but the beginning of beautiful lives.
I haven’t yet bothered to read any professional critiques of Daisy Jones & The Six, nor do I know very much about the history of Fleetwood Mac. My recommendation of the book to friends is based solely on how well the narrative flows. It’s a well told story. Enjoy.