Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.46 out of 5
5th March 2019 by Ballantine Books
This book is an attempt to piece together a clear portrait of how the renowned 1970’s rock band Daisy Jones & The Six rose to fame – as well as what led to their abrupt and infamous split while on tour in Chicago on July 12, 1979.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I am writing this review a little late – whoops! Why? Well for a large portion of time before I came to writing this review I was worse than Billy. I didn’t know what I wanted.
Did I want to give this book a 2 star review? Did I want to give it 4 stars? Did I want to play it safe and go with the comfortable middle ground of 3? So much thinking happened and in the end I did ‘a thing’ that I don’t often do.
I have been known to give books higher ratings and then on retrospect ‘downgrade’ them but in this case I did the reverse.
I finished reading ‘Daisy Jones’ and I said to myself, “I don’t like this. I didn’t like this. It gets 2 stars because it wasn’t terrible but I didn’t like it.”
Then I embarked on a glorious thought journey. What exactly was it about Daisy Jones and The Six that I didn’t like?
Was it the way the story was told? The story is presented as an oral history piece with an interviewer delving into the memories of the band members, their friends and colleagues.
Sure, you know the band is going to split because that’s exactly what we’re told from the off but I like stories where you know the ending because the anticipation builds and the journey becomes the important part.
Do I think that people would realistically remember that level of detail about something that happened over forty years ago especially when they were high the majority of the time? No, not really but I actually liked reading a book that was doing something different and enjoyed how the story was presented in this manner.
Ok, so was it the writing? Was it glorified hyperbolic purple prose? Was it dull and stilted?
No, it wasn’t either of those things. Because of the way the story is presented it doesn’t leave much room for over styled writing or for stagnant sentences.
As this tale unfolds via interviews we get a keen sense of the character’s voices and their individual way of speaking. Sometimes I felt some of the voices were too similar to be uniquely distinguished but not to the extent where I felt you couldn’t get the feel for the characters.
Was it the setting? Hell no! I haven’t lived through the 70’s but honestly this whole story reeked of sex, drugs and rock and roll and I mean that in a good way. I actually find the whole 70’s vibe partly fascinating, partly horrifying and actually… partly sad.
There’s a real sense of loneliness and isolation for a few of the characters and this is fed from the lifestyle they lead, one of drugged up hedonism which they say they enjoyed. But the question that’s asked from this story is ‘did they really?’ and the answer we get through probing their memories is ‘no, they didn’t.’
Is is the overall story? If you want something heavily plot driven this isn’t it. If you want action this is not what you’ll find under Daisy Jones. The nature of how it is presented means this is a slower moving account of people’s lives during a specific period of time.
Like I said, we know the outcome. The story is about how we get to that outcome. Along the way we are presented with a plethora of characters and their opinions that will keep you guessing.
At times when reading the book I felt I didn’t need the sections where we get descriptions of them recording songs inside the studio as that slowed down an already slow paced story but, when I reflected, I came to realise it was in those quiet moments that connections were forged.
That must leave the characters then? I’ll level with you. This book contains its fair share of assholes. But it’s a story about rock and roll in the 70’s so what are we all expecting?
In a band of that size we have characters of varying personalities.
There are the relatively minor band members – Warren who is simply hilarious and just wants to enjoy his glory days while he can, Pete who sees it all for what it truly is – mayhem in youth, Eddie who clashes with Billy and thinks of himself as gods gift (which is ironic because no one thinks of Eddie).
Those we get more of an insight into are Billy’s younger brother Graham who has spent life in his big brothers shadow and Karen who faces the struggle of being a female in a male rockers world. They have their own stories, both separately and together and I enjoyed their plot line a lot.
Then, oh then, we have Billy and Daisy themselves.
Much like a band, in a book it doesn’t matter if you have an ensemble – there is always the star(s). In this story the main characters are Billy and Daisy. Did I like them? You want the truth?
I liked the secondary characters more. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t find Billy and Daisy infinitely the most conflicted, most damaged and the most interesting.
They start as damaged souls and they continue as damaged souls and despite their antagonism you can see they’re both missing a piece of something that they have found in the other.
But the question that the book makes us ask is, ‘is finding that missing piece in another always a good thing?’
If you think I’m ignoring the character of Camila (Billy’s wife) you can think again. In some ways this story is more fundamentally about her than some of the members of the band and she has an impact on the events even when not present. Ultimately it makes sense in context, especially when you reach certain points and certain, specific realisations are made.
Billy is a passionate, hedonistic, talented asshole who throws his addictive personality into whatever is available but he tries so hard to overcome those demons. Daisy is a passionate, hedonistic, talent asshole who is lonely, vulnerable and desperate for love. She doesn’t try quite as hard to overcome those emotions.
Camila is just as equally an interesting character as Billy and Daisy and I liked (ok, I loved) her character. Strength takes many forms as this book shows us and never has the adage ‘behind every man stands a good woman’ been more true.
That’s not to say she doesn’t have her flaws. She’s a woman who wants what she has in life and will hold onto it. This may make her seem manipulative to some and there are indications (both subtle and overt) that she knows what she’s doing but she’s not a bad guy here. She’s a woman who loves her family.
This story of sex, drugs, rock and roll and damaged people is actually a love story but not always in the way you think. Love is a complicated, confusing thing. Love is a nurturing and nourishing thing. Love is a destructive and damaging thing.
Daisy Jones and The Six is a story about that passion in your core which drives you but it’s also about healing and hope.
I’ve said all that stuff but didn’t I give this book a 2?! Well I went away and thought about it. I thought about it and thought about it and realised that if a book resonated with me that much and burrowed its way into my brain that much, it must be worth more than 2 stars.
So I gave it 4 stars. That’s unprecedented in my world. I don’t upgrade dammit. Not usually.
I had to think about why I initially closed the story with the blanket statement, ‘I didn’t like it.’ What I was really thinking was ‘I didn’t like the way this book made me feel.‘
Daisy Jones and The Six made me sad for many of the characters, it made me feel uncomfortable to acknowledge that underneath the glimmer and the rock and roll was just misery, isolation and layers of dirt.
But I have to tip my cap to it and say, “Kudos, you cheeky minx. You’ve made me question whether the universe will find a way for the something when the timing is right.”
Yes, a book about rock stars who wear see through tops and double denim made me ponder the overall meaning of what it means to love someone and receive their love in return.
Kudos, book. Kudos.