Have you ever wondered what life was like in a band in seventies? Then this is the novel for you.
I am something of a sucker for books, films and TV series set in the music industry. From Almost Famous (which perhaps is closest in vibe to this novel), to Vinyl and the little seen Roadies, I’m fascinated by a life that I’ve never especially wanted to be part of. This novel ticks all those boxes.
Daisy Jones & The Six tells the stories of Daisy Jones, an aspiring songwriter, and Billy Dunne, the lead singer of The Six. Told in a first-person style, we learn how the singer songwriter and rock band came together, produced one of the best-selling albums of the period, and then broke up (This is not a spoiler incidentally, as it’s revealed right at the start).
The novel reads like one of those oral histories that you might read in music magazines like Rolling Stone, cutting back and forth between the relevant protagonists as we follow their lives and experiences.
Daisy is the daughter of distantly wealthy parents who never seem too worried that their teenage daughter is hanging out on Sunset Strip, becoming the coolest person around, drinking, taking drugs and having sex with whoever she likes.
Meanwhile, across the country, Billy Dunne is forming a band with his brother Graham amongst others, and trying to make it in the music industry – starting with smaller clubs before eventually getting signed to Runner Records and having some demons to face.
The novel tells how these two paths collide, and the impact it has on both their lives personal and professional lives.
These might not be real lives, but they feel real, and that’s what’s important. All the way through this novel you feel that Taylor Jenkins Reid knows about the scene at the time. At the very least, she has spoken to people who understand it. I don’t know who Daisy might be based on, but you can certainly believe that there was a wild child like her, living in a cottage at the Chateau Marmont, and hanging out with all the names of the day.
You also know that LA was the epicentre of a certain type of music of the time, and that bands did indeed feel the need to move there to develop their careers.
The structure of the novel means that initially it can be little hard to differentiate the characters – they are all giving interviews to an unseen narrator. But everyone here is their own person, and you begin to wish that you could listen to the songs and hear that music that’s being talked about (In fact, you can read the lyrics from many of their songs in the novel’s appendix).
One slight complaint I have about the book’s structure is that it requires that all the characters have fantastic recollection of the period. Yes, there are some entertaining “unreliable narrator” moments, when two characters remember a key conversation very differently, but considering the sheer quantities of drink and drugs that were being consumed, word perfect recall of some of these conversations is a little bit of a stretch at times. But it’s hard to work around that given the structure’s constraints. If this were a documentary feature, then those gaps might be filled in with clips from the era, but a novel doesn’t have that luxury.
It’s very entertaining how the novel has to carefully weave between real people from the period and people who might have been around at the time. A venue in LA is real, a presenter of Saturday Night Live isn’t.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional representation of the rise and fall of a band plying their trade in the late seventies. The book is more about relationships of the protagonists than the minutiae of how the industry actually works. But you kind of wish you could have been there.
Daisy Jones & The Six is published by Random House on 7 March 2019. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my advanced reader copy.