One of my favorite genres of TV and movie are films set around the music scene of the 60s and 70s. Almost Famous with the audience getting to know who would play Lester Bangs on the silver screen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman – he was outrageously good) is one of the most satisfyingly nostalgic feel-good movies ever made. The Dirt about Motley Crue is less slick and more grotesque but still watchable. High Fidelity didn’t quite put me to sleep, but was far too ‘nice’ for my tastes. Oliver Stone’s The Doors might be the closest anyone has ever got to making the great rock and roll movie. It is pretty close to definitive, and Val Kilmer almost became Jim Morrison. It was not just a great rock and roll movie, it was a great movie, period. Kilmer should have won an Oscar, but those hack awards were never about worth or value and all about politics. I could never cope around the kind of people that don’t reward talent and genius.
Before we get any further, let me assure you, Daisy Jones and the Six, whilst being a fabulous best selling book, is not a great TV show. Most of the problem lays in the fact that the book allows the reader to imagine what the band sounded like – Fleetwood Mac, of the Nicks and Buckingham era – whilst the TV show suffers from some of the most cheesy, appalling music I have heard in a while. It is like someone fed the remit “write songs that sound like Fleetwood Mac” into chatGpt and married the resulting contrived and twee ridiculousness onto the most formulaic and irritating musical background possible. This band was meant to be stratospheric, and to write those kind of songs takes a career, not a netflix adaptation. The lyrics stink so bad it sounds like they got David Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson to help write them. Rhyming couplets of appalling predictability abound, and the imagery is Spinal Tap-ist in its lack of imagination and hokey cheesiness. When the band started singing about the ‘sword in the stone’ I choked on my chewing gum. These songs are not just bad, they are catastrophic.
Daisy Jones is Stevie Nicks-Taylor Swift-Joni Mitchell with a dash of vulnerable Hollywood ingenue. Her tough girl act doesn’t fool any one. She is just too beige, too nice, too sweet, too by-gosh-oh-golly wholesome. Her friendship with disco diva Simone Jackson, a character who is loosely based on Donna Summer according to the author, is interesting and engaging, but not even the lesbian substory of Simone’s character can redeem the lack of depth in the plot and its bland execution.
The show is beautifully shot. It looks like the 70s, the colors are right, the tones are muted and even the light looks right. It is wonderfully evocative of a time when a band could up sticks from Philadelphia or small town America anywhere, and head to Los Angeles in search of their dream, with only a few bucks and a broke down van. When the drummer says “I hope the van will make it” to L.A. it is a wistful dream. You know the van will make it, the band will make it, and everything be just beautiful, with a few jagged edges to help the story along. This is not a story with the threat and danger that the real life story of The Doors, managed to invoke. This is not a rock and roll reality, not the possibly life-robbing thrill of living on the edge of becoming a member of the 27 club, instead it is a quiet, gentle fantasy. Even the alcoholism and drug use of our male lead’s character, Riley Keough, is seen through vaseline lenses, he gets drunk, snorts some white powder, fucks up a performance and doesn’t make it to the birth of his first child. That said, he makes it to rehab, fixes everything neatly and leads the band onto wild success. He pukes, but we see no vomit. He allegedly suffers, but we see no tears, just the artfully reddened eyes of an actor who has been given the remit of entertainment and distraction from mundanity, instead of artful reality.
This is not a bad show, per se. It is just not a great show. It is cotton candy, bubble gum. There is no sense of ‘I’m a wild seed again, let the wind carry me’ as Joni Mitchell, an actual rock and roll star once sang. It is empty, all pose and nothing behind the façade. I would love to see a real gritty movie made about the story of the real Fleetwood Mac, from the Peter Green era, to the wild days of Nicks and Buckingham leading the show. It would have the music to carry the story, and nothing that can be imagined would ever be as interesting as the reality. The TV series is partly rendered through later day ‘interviews’ with the band older and wiser, and this could have worked. Instead of making us feel like Daisy and her band of Six are real people, it just all feels a little cheap and unbelievable.
Don’t go looking to Daisy Jones and the Six for any vital insight into the 70s mega band phenomena, nor into any back stage life, not even into rock and roll and creativity. You won’t find any of that here. What is there is distraction from this ugly 2023 reality. It is a kinder, safer, more peaceful place, where the drugs at least worked, the bands were fabulous and the clothes were perfect. It is a fine fantasy and engaging entertainment. Even cringing at the terrible lyrics is a kind of sport in its own right. Spot those terrible couplets, the truly clichéd overly sentimental diatribes, and the carefully stage managed growing attraction between Daisy and Riley. It is not the show it could have been, but it is also one of the best things to watch on Prime at the moment. It kept me watching for the first three episodes, and I will tune in for the next installments, but I am not longing to watch them like I should be.
It is rock and roll lite, with all the claws and the teeth and the puke airbrushed out of it. It is Laurel Canyon, but no dark side, and even when it gets dark, the light is absolutely perfect. Such a shame. It could have been so much fun.
5.5/10 – Watchable, but has not got me enthralled.