Reviewed by Annabel
There was a lot of pre-publishing buzz about Daisy Jones and The Six – it was instantly signed up by Amazon for a TV series with Reese Witherspoon producing. But, in this case, there was no need to worry about the book not being worth the hype, for this book is a triumph, and once started I really didn’t want to put it down. Besides, there was no way I could let a novel about rock’n’roll set in the hippy days of the ‘60s and ‘70s pass me by. I was a child in one decade, a teen in the next, and was a fan of the bands in the late ‘70s that inspired Jenkins Reid to write this book.
Jenkins Reid has written the novel in an interesting form that I’ve not encountered in fiction before. The story is presented as a documentary novel and is entirely made up of interviews, telling the stories of Daisy Jones and the Dunne Brothers, leading up to their collaboration as Daisy Jones and The Six and a bestselling album and tour that finally imploded. A framing prologue by the ‘author’ explains how their story was pieced together by talking to the band members, friends and family, their crew, record company and industry professionals over a period of eight years. Tellingly, it is ‘the first and only time members of the band have commented on their history together.’
We begin in Los Angeles 1965 where we meet the fourteen-year-old Daisy Jones, daughter of a British painter and a French model. Her biographer introduces her thus:
ELAINE CHANG: She’s born with all the money in the world, access to whatever she wants – artists, drugs, clubs – anything and everything at her disposal.
But she has no one. No siblings, no extended family in Los Angeles. Two parents who are so into their own world that they are all but indifferent to her existence.
One night, Daisy sneaks off to the famous club on the Sunset Strip, The Whisky. Chats up a roadie, and she’s in, luckily an up and coming disco star Simone takes her under her wing.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, once Billy and Graham Dunne got a guitar each instead of fighting over the one their absent father left behind, it was natural for them to write songs together and form a band with drummer Warren and bassist Pete. They started to generate some local interest, and it was while playing at a wedding that Billy met Camila, who’ll become his wife and mother of his children.
BILLY: I leaned over the bar and said, “My name is Billy Dunne. I’m the lead singer of the Dunne Brothers. And if you give me your number I’ll write a song about you.
That got her. That doesn’t get every woman. But it usually gets the good ones.
With the addition of another guitarist, Eddie, freeing up Billy to just sing, and a daring move – adding Karen on keyboards, the Dunne Brothers become The Six, moving to LA and recording their well-received first album. It’s 1974, and they go on tour to promote it:
WARREN: Let me sum up that early tour for you: I was getting laid, Graham was getting high, Eddie was getting drunk, Karen was getting fed up, Peter was getting on the phone to his girl back home, and Billy was all five, at once.
By now you’re getting the picture. Things come to a head a couple of years later when Daisy, who has had some solo success, joins The Six for their difficult second album. Daisy has ideas of her own about the songs and she and Billy will have to find a way of writing together – it’s a fight, but they have to do it. As we know from the start, the crisis that splits the band will come on tour in 1979.
It’s so Fleetwood Mac! (Although Jenkins Reid cites the 2013 documentary The History of The Eagles as a bigger influence.) Jenkins Reid has such fun with her material. She throws every ‘70s rock cliché you can think of into the mix, but they never seem cheesy because a) they’re true, and b) she totally nails the characters of Daisy, The Six, and especially Camila, who gives Billy the support he needs to stay strong. As everything is related in their own words and told after the event, everyone remembers a little differently of course. The chemistry between the band members is spot on: the rhythm section guys are laid-back and just get on with things; Eddie is the archetypal grumbling lead guitarist who’d like a bit of the limelight; Graham is forever in his brother’s shadow and in love with Karen, who is too cool for a conventional relationship. It must have been a challenge to write a novel with so many voices talking that had to remain consistent, but Jenkins Reid is up to it, even in the ancillary supporting characters like their manager Rod and recording engineer Artie.
Another thing that gives this novel so much authenticity is in the portrayal of the process of song-writing, arranging and recording. Nothing is left out, but given the interview format, with everyone’s slightly different points of view, the song-wrangling doesn’t get boring at all. Jenkins Reid also does a brave thing at the end of this novel, presenting the complete lyrics of the album Aurora, which she felt was an essential part of the story.
It was so hard to believe that the characters in this book were fictional; I wanted to go online and order their album, they felt so real. West-coast soft rock never felt so alive as in this novel!
 BBC Radio 4, Open Book, 4t April 2019 – Taylor Jenkins Reid talks to Mariella Frostrup
Annabel is one of the editors of Shiny New Books, and still is a rock-chick in her head.
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones and The Six (Hutchinson, 2019). 978-1786331502, 368pp., hardback.BUY at the Book Depository (affiliate link).