Daisy Jones & The Six is the story of a 1970s rock band who, amidst major relationship dramas and substance abuse, make Aurora, one of the decade’s greatest albums. After starting the book, I was soon thinking of parallels with Fleetwood Mac, who like Daisy Jones & The Six had lead singer and writing responsibilities shared between a man and woman in a fraught relationship. Both fictional and real bands had famously solid rhythm sections, and a talented, down to Earth female keyboard player, in a difficult romantic entanglement with another band member. And of course Fleetwood Mac suffered, fought, partied, drank, snorted, and wrote their way to the Rumours album of 1977. A quick check on the internet revealed interviews with author Taylor Jenkins Reid which confirmed the link.
The book is an interesting reconstruction of a band making a successful album, the story told from the varied points of view of musicians, technicians, managers, wives, children, photographers, accountants and rock journalists. Creating a massively successful album involves a lot of people. Does it happen because one person imposes his or her creative vision; or because others are allowed to shine, bringing many talents into play? Both alternatives seem to happen at the same time, in a way that cannot be planned for. The book’s fictional Aurora album is something that people strive to achieve, but which happens almost by accident. And even if a turbulent group of people make an album that they are pleased with, is the audience going to like it? Musical preference is highly subjective. By bringing all these factors together via many voices, Daisy Jones & The Six does catch the spirit of an intense collaborative effort where an evanescent chain of events leads to something which is greater than the sum of its parts.
While the book is very good in its exploration of the nature of a complex creative endeavour, if I was to quibble I might suggest that the fictional project itself is perhaps a weaker aspect. Compare for example the name of the album Aurora with the name of the real album Rumours. The title of Fleetwood Mac’s most famous album is deceptively simple, introducing its collection of songs in terms of the kind of hearsay which by its very nature is enigmatic, and which invites people to read their own concerns into them. Rumours circulate in times of trouble, and you never know where you are with them. Aurora by contrast is the sort of title which sounds impressive, but which is kind of straining for significance. And the fictional band name, The Six, does not compare well with Fleetwood Mac. The name of the real band is less literal, and has a pleasing rhythm to it. Now, I accept that no author would be able to recreate a hit album in book form, but it might have been better to leave the Aurora album more impressionistic.
Apart from that, I enjoyed Daisy Jones And The Six, a perceptive study of what it’s like to try and create something great in partnership with other people.