STELLAR chats to author Taylor Jenkins Reid about the 70s, Fleetwood Mac, and more.
The 1970s inspires a certain kind of nostalgia, even in people who never experienced it for themselves. Films like Almost Famous paint a picture of a time of great music, fabulous fashion, and lots of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.
All of this is perfectly realised and then subverted in Daisy Jones & The Six, the book of the summer that’s already been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon for a telly adaptation. It follows the rise and fall of the titular fictional 70s rock band, focusing on the intense personal and professional relationship between lead singers Daisy, a gorgeous, innately talented but troubled flower child, and Billy Dunne, a recovering addict trying to stay straight for his wife and family.
“I really wanted to write a story about a band airing their dirty laundry out in their album,” says author Taylor Jenkins Reid.
The music scene in the 60s and 70s in Los Angeles is really iconic. There’s Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash up in Laurel Canyon, the groupies on the Sunset Strip, David Bowie coming through, Led Zeppelin coming through… it’s an interesting time that we have mythologised.
The story is loosely based on that of Fleetwood Mac, who documented their disintegrating relationships with each other on their classic album Rumours, and follows The Six as they release their own Rumours-esque record, Aurora. It unspools
in the form of an oral history, with the characters looking back from the present day
– an unusual choice for a work of fiction.
Taylor chose to tell the story this way to make the band feel real, and considering that one of the top Google searches for the book is ‘daisy jones and the six real band’, you can see that it works. It also enabled her to show all sides of the story, revealing the differing perspectives of each band member to sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking effect.
“Our memories tell the stories in a way that benefits the narrative in our head. There are different points of view, different biases, people’s memories are flawed. You hear what a man is saying happened, and what a woman is saying happened,” she explains.
You can see then how the novel breaks through some of that mythology around an era that has been romanticised so much in films, TV and literature. The fact is, it wasn’t a great time to be a woman, and Daisy, The Six’s keyboardist Karen, and Billy’s wife Camila Dunne often bear the brunt of the male characters’ bad behaviour.
“A lot of the things that men in the 1970s were getting up to, especially rockstars, were irredeemable, certainly for a 2019 audience,” says Taylor. “I tried to put them in situations in which you understand why they did what they did or said what they said in context, but at the same time, knowing it wasn’t what we would do now. Men didn’t respect women in the way that women deserved to be respected in the late 70s. We’re still not there yet. But it was important to be honest about that.”
As well as figuring out all of these different perspectives, Taylor was writing the lyrics to the songs, which are printed in full in the back of the book. “I’m not a lyricist, it was very foreign to me!”
While many of the main characters are men, Daisy Jones & The Six is most definitely a story about women. Taylor believes that it’s important to put readers inside the brains of women, to show them as nuanced, fully realised human beings. “People, especially when it comes to reading, are very focused on gender. We’re told that stories about men are universal, and stories about women are for women. I don’t know why we do that. I’m exhausted by it, frankly. But I’m never going to stop telling stories about women.”
Daisy Jones & The Six is out now
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