Throughout this month, Amazon Prime has been promoting the miniseries adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s beloved novel Daisy Jones & The Six. Advertisements for the show and its music have shown up on social media, and Amazon has even started marketing the outfits that various characters wear.
Depending how one feels about the novel and, more importantly, Amazon, this can be a wonderful or a highly annoying thing. I watched all 10 episodes over a four-week period, and viewer, it was worth it because it made the story whole.
Developed by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the show is a faithful adaptation of the book, but just like any other adaptations, there are some differences between. Vanity Fair already has an article listing them in great detail, so what I’m going to do is cover the important alterations from page to screen and how that affects the adaptation. The biggest change from the book to the show is the framework. In the former, it’s an oral history of the Fleetwood Mac-like 70s band from cradle to the grave. While this was a good framing device, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing given that Reid had lyrics for each of the songs from the Aurora album listed in the book club kit. In the series, the framework is a documentary of the group with “archival” footage. This improves the story because not only does it show what the band was like and how they interacted with each other, but it also allows listeners to hear what their music was like. I especially love how the interviewees react to what another person says about them. It felt authentic.
Another drastic alteration between the page and the screen version is the lyrics. With the exception of the song “Please,” the ones that show up in the book club kit are different from the ones that are heard in the series. The most famous line from the book version of “Regret Me” that goes “And, baby, when you think of me/I hope it ruins rock ‘n’ roll” was omitted from the miniseries.
I’m not sure why this happened, yet I wouldn’t be shocked if the reason was to make them suited to the music musicians Blake Mills, Tony Berg, Chris Weisman, Jackson Browne, Marcus Mumford of the band Mumford & Sons, and book nerd Phoebe Bridgers were composing. The book lyrics can be a bit wordy, but then again, there are songs that are just like that from artists like I don’t know Fleetwood Mac. The ones from the show feel more secondary compared to the music despite their importance, given how much the series emphasizes the tension between Billy and Daisy through their songwriting.
Another set of major changes for the Amazon Prime adaptation involve the omission and expansion of some characters. On one side, the bassist Pete was cut, and Eddie filled that role after Chuck decided to go to school to become a dentist (as opposed to going to Vietnam to fight and dying there in the book). The reason was that Pete didn’t contribute too much to the plot. Although it felt weird to have five members while still calling themselves The Six (they made Billy’s wife Camila the unofficial sixth member), I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about Pete. It was for the best, for it gives Eddie another reason to feel like a second-class citizen within the band.
On the other hand, Symone – Daisy’s friend who becomes a disco pioneer – is greatly expanded in the series. According to the Vanity Fair article, Reid, who also was a producer for the show, mentioned that she wanted Symone to be more developed. In the novel, she functions as Daisy’s friend, not much more. In the series, Symone (played by Nabiyah Be) is given her own subplot as she tries to find her own voice as a gay black woman. She goes to New York City after she meets Bernie – a black female deejay – in Los Angeles and experiences the ups and downs of trying to be successful while staying true to one’s self. This gets covered in about two episodes. It was really good to explore a story involving the true pioneers of disco – LGBTQIA+ members of color. In addition, it fits the overall story because it explores a running theme present both in the book and the show – female agency and validating one’s self.
Outside of the chemistry between Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, the main draw of the show is the 70s-bluesy-style rock music. I’ve listened to the Aurora album – the Daisy Jones & The Six’s version of Fleetwood Mac’s iconic Rumors LP – a few times, and it’s good. Some of it feels like the 2010s’ perception of what 1970s music sounds like, especially with The Black Keys-like distorted guitars. I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case because Blake Mills, Marcus Mumford, and Phoebe Bridgers are musicians who experienced success in the 2010s. In addition, Riley Keough (who plays Daisy) is a bit drowned out in the mixing. Considering that Daisy is the main reason for The Six’s success, one might try to emphasize that in the real album of the fake band. The best tracks evoked a more authentic interpretation of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll and have proper mixing when it comes to Daisy’s voice. This most likely has to do with the fact that two of the musicians involved Tony Berg (who was a session guitarist on many albums like The Rocky Horror Picture Show LP) and Jackson Browne were alive and working in the 1970s. My favorite tracks are “Let Me Down Easy,” “The River,” “Regret Me,” and “Look at Us Now (Honeycomb).”
As for the performances, I liked all of the actors cast in the show. They embodied the best and worst parts of their characters. Sam Clafin (best known for his performances in Me Before You and as Fiddnick Odair in the The Hunger Games film series) plays Billy Dunne – the lead singer and songwriter for The Six. I enjoyed seeing his struggle between his personal and professional life. At the same time, he can be very stubborn, in which Clafin conveys well. At first, I wasn’t a fan of his singing voice; it felt a little too nasally. But overtime, I realized that this fits the music Billy is creating for The Six and that Jackson Browne – one of the musicians involved in the real Aurora album – has a similar tone. I also was delighted whenever Riley Keough (who’s known for her performances in Mad Max: Fury Road, American Honey, and Logan Lucky) came on the screen as Daisy. The character can be tough to play because one has to embody her faults, why she became the way she did, and what makes her special as a musician. And, Keough does that well enough, yet I’ll always hear Jennifer Beals from the audiobook as Daisy’s real voice. I also can’t avoid talking about Keough’s singing since she is Elvis’s granddaughter. She sounds like a raspy Taylor Swift, especially on “Regret Me, and it works well with the music produced.
The strongest performance belongs to Josh Whitehouse who takes on the role as Eddie Roundtree the bassist. Whitehouse – most notably for playing Hugh Armitage in the third and fourth seasons of Poldark – clearly conveys his character as disgruntled with what’s been given to him despite trying to be a team player. The confrontation that Eddie has with Billy about quitting the band is rightfully memorable, but the quieter moments are what make Whitehouse’s performance special. This is especially true when Eddie in the interview segment of the first episode reveals that he had feelings for Camila without saying a word (this was also not in the book).
Another effective aspect of the performances is that all of the actors have great chemistry with one another. Since the story is about what leads up to the breakup of an uber-successful band, it’s important for the actors to communicate not only the tension, but also the love and why they stayed together for so long. And, all of the actors do that. They always feel comfortable around one another, especially in the scene in the diner, where The Six decide on their name. And yes, the chemistry between Keough and Clafin was undeniably good. They played off each other well, whether they are at each other’s throats, or are working amicably. I especially love the glances the actors give to each other during the recording session and concert scenes.
Despite my praise, I have a couple of complaints. One is obviously the wigs, particularly the ones used during the interview segments. They kind of look ridiculous, especially Timothy Oliphant’s (who plays Rod the tour manager) and they don’t make the actors look any older than their 70s counterparts. Luckily, those are compensated because they convey the world-weariness that comes with years of touring and reflecting on what happened through their body language and the tone of their voice.
The other complaint that I have is that I wish that the show explored more of Graham and Karen’s relationship (played by Will Harrison and Suki Waterhouse). Yes, I know the show devotes two episodes to them coming to terms about their feelings for one another and another two episodes to their breakup brought on by Karen’s pregnancy scare. Yet, those segments needed some transition like a scene involving them talking about what they want to live their lives and how they see themselves as a couple because it felt like everything was going very well until Karen got pregnant. Considering how the show highlights Billy and Daisy’s relationship, the one between Symone and Bernie (one that’s not present in the book), and Eddie’s resentment of his place in the band in ten episodes, I feel that it could’ve fleshed out Graham and Karen’s relationship more.
All in all, the Amazon Prime series Daisy Jones & The Six is an adaptation that makes the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid feel whole. Although it’s not perfect, I still enjoyed the music and performances. Moreover, it made changes to bring to life a story that definitely needed to be seen and heard as well as read. Amazon definitely picked the right show to do an intense marketing campaign on. Like with the book, I would recommend it to those who love 1960s and 1970s music and female protagonists who take charge of their destinies. It was worth seeing Daisy Jones & The Six’s assets on full display in the miniseries.
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