Author Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote her best-selling novel, “Daisy Jones & the Six,” with a fictional band in the image of Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac’s multi-platinum 1977 album “Rumors” changed everything for the band, but the tensions between the bandmates became just as notable as their music. Using Fleetwood Mac’s rise to glory and subsequent drama as a template, Reid developed the novel like a band documentary similar to VH1’s “Behind the Music”–it’s written as a series of interviews with the band some twenty years after they played their final gig. The Amazon Prime Video ten-episode limited series details the meteoric rise of a scrappy band from Pittsburgh and how a chance meeting with an up-and-coming songstress would change their trajectory forever. On paper, it’s easy to imagine a superband rising to the stratosphere. Make “Daisy Jones & the Six” real, put them on stage, and ask them to perform and that’s a challenge to live up to the myth expounded upon in the pages of Reid’s novel.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” introduces young Margaret “Daisy” Jones, a young girl from an affluent family that doesn’t have time for her. That makes Daisy search for other means of comfort and that comes from being hooked on pills. She believes that it dulls her senses and keeps her safe from the real world. Looking for somewhere to belong she quickly latched onto the eclectic music of the ‘60s, dreaming of not just being near the movement, but being the movement. As she grows into an adult (played by the granddaughter of the late Elvis Presley, Riley Keough), she’s found the drugs and alcohol part of Rock N’ Roll, but she hasn’t quite found her sound.
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Meanwhile, a group out of Pittsburgh called the Dunne Brothers fronted by Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) and featuring Graham Dunne (Will Harrison), Eddie Roundtree (Josh Whitehouse), Warren Rhodes (Sebastian Chacon) are working small gigs and scrapping by until they’re convinced to take the band to LA. After inviting Keyboardist Karen Sirko (Suki Waterhouse) to join the band, they change their name to The Six. Although there are only five members in the band, they thought the name worked and it sounded like “The Sex.” In actuality, there is a sixth member of the band, Camila Dunne (Camila Morrone), who works on promotion for the band and has also married the lead singer.
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The Six barely have enough money for their expenses and the window of opportunity is closing fast. A chance encounter with music producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) allows them to come that much closer to superstardom, but it’s not until they are joined by Daisy Jones do they truly reach the stratosphere. The only problem is that both Billy and Daisy see themselves as the leader of the band. Even if their collaboration would lead to their hit album “Aurora,” is the band capable of withstanding the growing animosity and passion between Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones?
The journey to becoming rock superstars is paved with plenty of problems, especially when love is added to the mix. Besides the drama between Billy Dunne, Camilia, and Daisy Jones, the other band members have love problems of their own. Billy’s brother Graham is smitten with keyboardist Karen Sirko, but she has her own reservations about hooking up with a member of the band. She’s worked too hard to make it in the predominately male music industry of the ‘70s. Another character that gets expanded upon in the series is Daisy Jones’ best friend Simone Jackson (Nabiyah Be). Simone is given her own agency as a disco pioneer, and the series even gives her a love interest, which helps establish the character and keeps her from being reduced to a sidekick for her white best friend. Of all the novel changes that exist in the series, Simone’s journey is easily the most satisfying.
Director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now,” “The End of the Tour”) was in the director chair of the first five episodes and really nailed the ideal tone of the novel. There’s a great flow between the talking head interviews from the band some twenty years removed, while the events of the series unfold. It’s so much part of the structure of the show, that when these interjections from the band become infrequent, it’s apparent that something got lost in the adaptation. In later episodes, the interviews are just used to show silent reaction shots of the participants like they’re watching the footage unfolding as well. Instead of reacting to the events of the past, it’s like they’re experiencing them in real-time breaking the rock documentary illusion.
If “Daisy Jones & the Six” is supposed to be one of the great bands of the ‘70s, then they need to have some pretty fantastic music. Being told that they’re a great band versus actually seeing them perform and live up to expectations is quite the challenge. The production team worked with Grammy Award winner Blake Mills and other collaborators including Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford, Jackson Browne, and others to develop the sound for this now-real band. Claflin and Keough provide their vocals for the soundtrack and create some of the most memorable songs from the novel “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb)” and “Regret Me.” Those two songs were the first released tracks from the show, and they’re easily the most memorable. The other songs that round out the soundtrack never get the same attention in the show as the aforementioned singles, making it hard to pick them out of the pack.
Where there’s rock music, there are rock concerts. Daisy Jones & the Six begin in dingy nightclubs, but their status continues to grow until they’re selling out stadiums. Neither Claflin nor Keough is a natural-born singer and “Daisy Jones & the Six” represents the first time either of them sang for a performance. Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter, brings a lot of interest to the role due to her heritage, and she channels Stevie Nicks through many of the tracks and on the stage through her performances. Surprisingly, Claflin is the more convincing rock star of the two, his charisma carrying a lot of the musical performances. It’s his journey just as much as Daisy Jones, and he has to battle his ego and drugs to survive. The other role that really stands out is Camila Morrone as Camila Dunne. While she’s never on the stage with the band, she’s just as much a catalyst to their success as anyone else, and Morrone is able to convey Camila’s influence over the band to great effect.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” takes what works in the best-selling novel and smartly makes minor adjustments to the material where needed. It’s a rags-to-riches rock story, complete with drugs and passion. The series takes what was compelling about all those rock documentaries VH1’s “Behind the Music” produced and uses a fictional band to fill in all the drama you could ever ask for. Daisy Jones & the Six weren’t ever going to be Fleetwood Mac, but they’re a strong complementary act. Every musician has a story about how they made it—Daisy Jones & the Six takes that story and makes the best of it. [B]
“Daisy Jones & the Six” debuts on Prime Video on March 3.