by Ruth Cawley
How can a band be both new and retro at the same time? Daisy Jones & The Six manages to be simultaneously fresh and nostalgic by following the story of a fictional seventies rock band that somewhat reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. The whole show is centred around music in the seventies era and how these band members rise to fame with talent, determination and, of course, drama.
Starting off as a searing slow burn, the ten episodes dropped on Amazon Prime Video back in March 2023 and its brilliance was acknowledged when the series was nominated for nine Emmy awards. The series was accompanied by an explosive album ‘Aurora’, produced by the label Atlantic Records.
The story starts out in the (presumably) present day with all Daisy Jones & The Six members sitting down to be interviewed about the band. We immediately discover that the band has been broken up for decades, but the public does not know the true reasons behind it. In this documentary-style exposé, the ex-bandmates narrate the struggle they faced and how they developed their era-defining music that skyrocketed them to worldwide fame. It focuses on the romances that built and broke the band’s foundation and ultimately how complex life can be. It is a story chock-full of passion, love, struggle, and monumental moments between complicated characters as well as an astonishing album. The series truly does the book justice and highlights that passion does not always equate to love.
There are many remarkable things about this series, but let’s look at the impressive cast first. Most of them had zero musical experience before getting their roles as successful rock musicians. Riley Keough and Sam Claflin, who play lead vocalists Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne respectively, spent almost an entire year at Band Camp learning to perform, sing, and play guitar like real rock stars. Under the tutelage of Jackson Brown, Keough and Claflin truly embodied the souls of two tragically tortured performers and mastered the music written for these characters.
We see these complex characters engage in all manner of self-destruction and self-improvement. This includes struggling with addiction, doomed relationships, stardom, and ultimately figuring out what is important to them as individuals. The performances delivered by the entire cast are phenomenal and really encapsulate the show’s meaning. Life is more complicated than we initially believe and sometimes you meet the right person at the worst possible time.
Amazon certainly took the opportunity to replicate authentic music from the seventies era. The Aurora album featured in the series is comprised of original music produced by Blake Mills with contributions from Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Weisman, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith, and Tony Berg. The eleven tracks are incorporated into the body and soul of the series, emphasised by the theme song ‘Dancing Barefoot’ by rock legend Patti Smith. The music taste for this series is beyond compare. It consolidates into an electrifying live performance by Daisy Jones & The Six in the final episode.
Of course, we also have criticisms. There is little character development for bassist Eddie Roundtree (played by Josh Whitehouse) in terms of his relationship with Billy Dunne and fully resolving his inner demons. In the book’s resolution, Eddie finds fulfilment in his life and work despite his growing resentment of Billy throughout the story. The series opts to play up Eddie’s tumultuous relationship with Billy over several episodes and alleviates most of the sympathetic view that is presented in the book. It becomes difficult to remember or understand why Billy and Eddie were ever friends and why Eddie does not speak up for himself. He comes across as bitter and vindictive when he really appears to be overlooked and unhappy. Another criticism relates to the slow nature of the first handful of episodes. This is good for storytelling purposes by establishing the era and character introductions. However, a slightly quicker pace would have engaged the audience more with the vibe. We are waiting for bigger drama when Daisy joins The Six as the final band member and designated co-songwriter which happens at the end of episode three.
Daisy Jones & The Six is based on the book of the same name by author Taylor Jenkins-Reid which was written in an interview format with all the band members. Jenkins-Reid has made a name for herself writing fictitious stories centred around fame. At the heart of each of these stories are fabulously flawed women who find their true strength and happiness in and out of the unrelenting spotlight. Her other bestsellers include The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Carrie Soto is Back,and Malibu Rising, all of which are also being adapted into films and television shows. The adaptations will resume once the writers’ guild strike reaches a resolution. Reese Witherspoon loved the Daisy Jones book so much that her company Hello Sunshine picked up the series adaptation and put every effort into bringing the story to screen. According to the book’s cover:
“I devoured this in a day.” – Reese Witherspoon.
“Be prepared to read it in a single night.” – Vogue.
“New obsession, incoming.” – Telegraph.
Needless to say, we think Daisy Jones & The Six is worth a watch and a read from anyone interested in music and tumultuous journeys. We are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the long-awaited Daisy Jones & The Six live tour. No news on that front yet, but fingers crossed! We’d love to see more from this recently retro, newly nostalgic band.