Daisy Jones & The Six (2019, Ballantine Books) 4 stars

A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their …

Review of 'Daisy Jones & The Six' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

3 stars

I cannot rate Daisy Jones & the Six any higher than 3 stars for a number of reasons. Mostly though, because of my own biases, admittedly. First of all, the fact that this is written in an interview format is the initial problem. I don’t think it was done very well. Granted, it can be almost impossible, written as such, to see characters change and grow and be privy to their inner dialog and complex back stories. So the characters never became fleshed out to me; they never felt real, they were forever cardboard flat and stereotypes. Plus they were all terrible people in their own ways and it’s hard to garner any sympathy towards them and their plights. I kind of hated everybody. The drug usage was very generic seeming… like the author didn’t know what she was talking about. Dude. Been there and done that.

The interview format CAN be a device to tell a compelling story though! One of the books on my “favorites shelf” is [b:Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk|14595|Please Kill Me The Uncensored Oral History of Punk|Legs McNeil||1820137]. It is a comprehensive telling of the New York City (and elsewhere tbh) punk movement in the 70s. All the major players are here, Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5, Patti Smith, various and sundry Ramones, Blondie and company, Richard Hell in various incarnations, Johnny Thunders and various bands, groupies, hangers on, transvestites, bar owners, managers, photographers etc… It is done so thoroughly and so well that even I, who had/has little interest in punk rock, was completely captivated and moved. It is a tour de force of rock music story-telling and you will spend many hours on the internet looking at old photographs and listening to the music. Once you read that book you will view Daisy Jones & the Six as a pale imitation. Truth.

At this point in my life I have read countless (countless)! rock biographies. To the point that I am sick of them, honestly. I started reading them as a teenage music lover back in the later 70s. The first of which were probably biographies of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison who were, at that point, already dead. Through the years I’ve read SO MANY I have a hard time even recalling what-all and who-all I’ve read about. And not all of them are of people/music I am particularly drawn towards (see Please Kill Me). I would read anybody’s biography because, you know, gotta have my sex, drugs and rock and roll! I usually found them to be compelling reads back in the day.

Now some biographies and autobiographies are better than others, admittedly. The ones that are endorsed by the artist themselves are the worst because they are so sanitized of the juicy intrigues as to render them sterile. It just becomes a short childhood backstory and then album and concert recitations, marriages/divorces. Those are so boring to read and worthless to a real fan. So are the ones that are NOT endorsed because they draw their material from old magazine and tv interviews etc and it is just the same old, same old information you already knew anyway. See various biographies on Stevie Nicks, John Cougar Mellencamp, Pat Benetar, or [b:Girl in a Band|22693211|Girl in a Band|Kim Gordon||42205774] I found Kim Gorden to be a kindred spirit but she was real stingy with letting people see into her heart, ironically, just exactly as I would be. Ha. It made for a disappointing read though.

The second worse, perversely, are the ones so filled with sex and drugs, rehabs, relapses, to render one stupified and overdosed. Like “get it together already”. Sadly some rock stars just can’t and don’t and die. See [b:Scar Tissue|96647|Scar Tissue|Anthony Kiedis||908343], [b:Slash|1970449|Slash|Slash||2338187], [b:Not Dead and Not for Sale|10225109|Not Dead and Not for Sale|Scott Weiland||15124898] (sadly, yes Scott, dead).

The best kind of rock biography to read are few and far between unfortunately. Those are the ones filled with juicy tidbits of sex and drugs, yes, an interesting backstory/childhood, ok, and that special “something” that allows the reader a glimpse into an artist’s heart and soul-some kind of reckoning or redemption or pivot to become a better person. The reader has to be able to see past the persona and ego, past the drugs, past the recording studios and concert venues. It’s almost like a magical alchemy to not only show the larger than life rock star, warts and all yes, but also the real humanity residing in a living breathing soul. Maybe not every rock star HAS this beautiful soul, I don’t know, but it CAN be done. See [b:Acid for the Children|39667068|Acid for the Children|Flea||61247052], [b:It's So Easy: And Other Lies|11156963|It's So Easy And Other Lies|Duff McKagan||16080834], [b:I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp|15819523|I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp|Richard Hell||21548539], [b:Just Kids|341879|Just Kids|Patti Smith||332242]. And of course, also, Please Kill Me: the Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs O’Neil even though this book is about the punk rock movement as a whole told through interviews, not so much the individual stars themselves always, but it has a lot of heart and is a lot of fun.

And yes, I grew up in a different era when rock music was SO important to us to the point we identified ourselves by our choices. We bought magazines like Circus and Creem and Hit Parader and the ubiquitous Rolling Stone. We cut out pictures of our favorite rock stars and taped them to our bedroom walls. We read stories and expose’s written by personalities like Lester Bangs and Lisa Robinson and Cameron Crowe who had real access to the rock stars; flew on the Starship and hung out and partied with Led Zeppelin and the like. People like Annie Leibovitz and Mick Rock, rock photographers who photographed the album covers and went on tours with the bands to document it all. We watched The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert late-night on the weekends. We stood in line for concert tickets and album releases. We listened to FM radio and on air interviews with rock stars who were in town for that night’s concert and listened to them play whole album sides. When Mtv became a thing in the 80s we were charmed even though, maybe some of the music played wasn’t exactly to our tastes. Daisy Jones & the Six tries to draw on that energy and enthusiasm but falls short because…I was actually alive when it was all happening. We all read in Rolling Stone of the incestuous goings on in Fleetwood Mac in “real time”. This story pales in comparison, truthfully, and if this kind of thing floats your boat, you’d be much better off reading Mick Fleetwood’s, [b:Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac|226882|Fleetwood My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac|Mick Fleetwood||219764].

I realize I’m not really giving you any real reasons why I liked/disliked this particular story. I just gave you my whole lifetime of rock and roll fan experience. But it is what shapes my reaction to this book ultimately. I guess, in my long-winded way I’m saying Daisy Jones & the Six is ok reading. It’s not bad. It’s another summer read type of book where you don’t have to burn too many brain cells keeping the characters and the plot straight. It doesn’t ask too much of you and is an enjoyable enough, light, gossipy type of book about a rock band from the 70s. But… the REAL thing is out there man! There are so many rock biographies to choose from. I just gave you a handful of what I personally consider some of the best in this huge genre. Go out there and read them. They’re interesting and they’re everywhere in any library or bookstore. Start with Mick Fleetwood’s if Daisy Jones & the Six intrigued you. Then move on to some of the other’s whose music interests you. The world is your oyster. Or rock band… or something.

Okay, so I am old and I am jaded, what can I say?

@SandraG I couldn't really put my finger on why I didn't like this book. I think the interview format and the made up story just made everything seem stupid and fake to me. But.. Thanks to your review I went and read Please kill me and it was so good! So thank you! Those real stories are 1000% crazier than anything one can make up.