We’re calling this now: might do for Patti Smith’s 1979 rock tune “Dancing Barefoot” what Stranger Things did for Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” (that is, make it a chart-busting radio hit all over again). The new series, in case you’re curious, has set a nearly insurmountable high standard for TV in 2023.
Watch 'Daisy Jones and the Six'
Smith’s darkly romantic lyrics are an homage to betrayed, maligned mistresses: the women who were muses, doomed to burn and fade away once their lovers found new attractions. “She is re-creation / She, intoxicated by Thee / She has the slow sensation that / He is levitating with she” as it goes.Daisy Jones is nobody’s muse, but as a beautiful, talented woman, she has to fight to be seen as anything other than men’s inspiration in the ’70s and ’80s music scene. In an early scene, she insists that she is no muse to a bloated, laughing man who can’t comprehend why she isn’t deeply grateful that he’s chosen her to inspire his latest film script.
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Most of the music in the series is original, though the few exceptions are masterfully chosen and used to amplify themes of place, time and mood. The musical highlight for this writer is Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Gold Dust Woman” (1977), which Stevie Nicks later explained was a song about the revelatory effects of cocaine and the fireworks, excitement and ferocious love affair she had with the drug before a crippling addiction set in. It was covered decades later by Courtney Love, who imbued the song with the rough-edged, savage urgency that always lurked at its core.
Addiction, infatuation, and momentary glory followed by the depths of loneliness and despair occur in the choices of songs as much as they are inherently part of Daisy Jones & the Six’s story. When Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine optioned Daisy Jones & the Six back in 2018, the millions of fans who loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s original novel were both thrilled and nervous. Understandably.
Reid’s book immerses readers into the lives of a 1970s rock band in all its debaucherously tumultuous glory and drama. The fictional band was an international phenomenon, according to the story. Ensuring that the film honored the music and its inspirations, not least Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, was equally important—if not more so—than the casting. The book seemed predestined to be a movie; since it is written in the style of a film script. The dialogue between the band members, their management, lovers and friends is immediately compelling. “I wanted you to feel immersed in it, and not like you were reading fiction, but like you were there,” Reid told Rolling Stone back in March 2019.
Readers can attest this aim was fulfilled in the moment-by-moment, enthralling narrative. We love Daisy, even though she is selfish and addicted, self-sabotaging and sometimes cruel. She is divisive in a world that expects women to be pretty, subservient and predictable. In real life, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Courtney Love and The Runaways’ Cherie Currie all exemplified the “difficult woman”. With their angular, beautifully photogenic faces and bodies, it would have been so simple for men in the music industry to market them as vixens and aspirational fashion icons.
The problem, of course, is that they were—and are—intelligent women with opinions and the creative skills to disseminate their ideas worldwide. Difficult women, as Daisy Jones learns, can dictate their own careers only to a point before they are punished by the industry, the media and the public for their complexities, contradictions and also having the tenacity to be beautiful, intelligent and independent of men. The lyrics to “Impossible Woman” capture Daisy’s essence, but also the tragedy in her repeatedly being manipulated, exploited and demeaned by men who don’t love her, and men who do.
“Walk away from the impossible
You’ll never touch her
Never ease your soul
You’re one more impossible man
Running from her
Clutching what you stole.”
Riley Keogh is Daisy Jones. Daisy, with her supermodel beauty and reckless attitude to drugs and drinking, is also a phenomenal singer and a burgeoning songwriter. Her creative partner and the man she is deeply, horribly in love with is singer-songwriter, Billy Dunne. Together, they are absolutely magic with a nearly supernatural ability to play off one another’s harmonies and rhythms. They are also volatile: infuriated, enraged and addicted to each other. The band is a stellar cast, lead by Sam Claflin as Billy Dunne, Karen (Suki Waterhouse), Warren (Sebastian Chacon), Graham (Will Harrison) and Eddie (Josh Whitehouse).
Fear not, you’ll get no spoilers here. Whether you’ve read the New York Times bestselling book by Reid, or whether you come in without knowing Daisy and Billy’s story, the Prime Video adaptation is brilliant. It’s dazzling, gritty and uncompromising. It reveals Daisy in all her messy, difficult, frustrating wonderfulness and Billy in all his beautiful, naive hopefulness.
And here’s what you were waiting for: the music is perfect. So perfect, the album “Aurora” is being released on the same day that the series launches on March 3. As readers of Daisy Jones & The Six will know, Reid penned the lyrics to an entire album of songs and these are published in full at the back of the book. So, that element of the music was predetermined.
Songwriting duties were handed, with due diligence, to the prolific, immensely versatile singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist extraordinaire Blake Mills. The Malibu-born GRAMMY winner has recruited friends Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford and Jackson Browne to guest alongside Keogh and Claflin, who perform their own parts (flawlessly).
In addition to his four solo albums, Mills was a guitarist on tours with Lucinda Williams, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Cass McCombs, and has performed on recordings by Norah Jones, Dixie Chicks, Pink, Lana Del Rey and Bob Dylan. His predilection for guitar-based rock, roots and bluesy country and folk, while understanding the fundamental melodic hooks and danceability of pop, enabled Mills to capture that late 1970s melodic, bluesy rock sound.
It was a period in which instrumentals took on their own, bristling life and hooky choruses met noodling guitar solos, thundering drums and woody, warm bass rhythms. The influence of the Beatles still lingered in harmonized choruses and clap-along rhythms, but hippies were leaving for – or returning from – sojourns to India and Africa and returning to their American homes with the lingering scent of incense and curiosity for sitars, mantras, tambourines and adventurous percussion. There was a post-war youth rebellion against conservative politics, driving experimental drug use, feminist thinking and manifestos, and a desire for liberation through books, music, fashion and art.
Lyrics spoke to love, loss, desire and devotion but increasingly, singers revealed stories of intoxication, mysticism, madness, addiction, poverty and loneliness. Each of these themes was inherently part of the Daisy Jones and the Six narrative. Somewhere between the twangy, dusty-booted Americana of Nashville, the classic, nostalgic rock of Tom Petty, and the warm, bluesy, moodiness of Eric Clapton we land on the musical persona Mills has gifted Daisy Jones and the Six. Add in a juicy dose of Stevie Nicks’ incomparable, pitch-perfect, throaty vocals, Joan Jett’s punky, sassy attitude and plenty of reverb to ensure the sound floods and throbs through your soul, and you’ve got “Aurora”.
At the heart of songs like “Regret Me”, “Aurora”, “Let Me Down Easy”, “Please” and “You Were Gone” is Daisy Jones and her velvet-smooth, lioness spirit. She is pure seduction, laced with poisonous recklessness. Recall Stevie Nicks crooning the earworm lyrics to 1975 classic Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”, and you’ll understand Daisy’s deadly allure:
“All your life you’ve never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness…”
As Daisy, Billy, Karen, Warren, Graham and Eddie all careen towards stardom, and almost inevitable combustion, they take us on a musical journey that will thrill those old enough to have seen Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on stage, and their grandchildren who couldn’t tell you who Stevie Nicks is, but they know a sun-drenched, star-flooded folk-rock melody when it thrills through their nervous system and imprints itself unforgettably.
Daisy Jones & The Six is available to stream on
Watch 'Daisy Jones and the Six'
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