Hi! I’m flying solo this week while Dames Margaret and Karen take well-earned breaks. This week’s issue will be a good old-fashioned TBD Classic affair – a bunch of cultural recommendations! I’ve been watching Amazon Studios’s Daisy Jones & the Six, a miniseries adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of the same name. Now, this is a book that might as well have been written in a lab for me: an oral history? Of a made-up 1970s band? With a brilliant, impossible, irresistible, infuriating female songwriter and lead singer whose star power and poor decision-making threaten to blow everything up? Yes, please!
So, how long can a band with two very messy musical geniuses flourish? What if Penny Lane had been the protagonist of Almost Famous? Daisy Jones & The Six takes a swing at answering these questions and more. While it’s not the staggering work of heartbreaking genius fans of the book might have hoped for, it is the kind of miniseries that will make you want to know what was really going on in the music scenes – both the industry and artistry – of the 1970s.
All of which is to say: I think it’s a fine watch, and as is often the case with less-than-astounding art, it made me think about what I want to (re)watch, listen to, and read about music from that era. Let’s go for a wee dive with some related media, shall we?
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You know where this has to start: with Fleetwood Mac. And for good reason! At the center of Daisy Jones is a band a lot like the Mac in its personnel, concerns, and diaphanous stagewear. At their worst/best, Daisy and Billy give us glimpses of what writing a bunch of indelible love to hate you & hate to love you songs might be like. The thing about comparisons to Fleetwood Mac is that they’re always unfair and unbalanced. That’s an unbearable weight to attempt to shoulder.
I mean! Imagine being one half of a sometimes-romantic artistic partnership so fruitful and so dreadful that it yielded “Silver Springs”. “Go Your Own Way”, “The Chain”, “Never Going Back Again” and many more – they’re all top-notch, but will a fellow musical broken heart ever write lyrics as devastating as “Time cast a spell on you, but you won’t forget me / I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me / I’ll follow you down to the sound of my voice that haunts you / You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you” and then sing it while looking directly in the face of its subject, a fellow musical genius who’s singing right along with you, a man just clever enough not to even make the attempt to escape because he knows his foolish heart is a whetstone for your brilliance and he simply cannot wait to hear what you come up with next?
It’s too tall an order by way more than half.
Of course, now that I’m pondering it, I can think of another lyricist who, on a particularly good day, could dream of holding a candle to peak Stevie Nicks: her friend Tom Petty, whose duet with her on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” also features an excellent co-lead vocal on the sorrowful/furious chorus “I know you really wanna tell me goodbye / I know you wanna be your own girl / Baby, you could never look me in the eye / Yeah, you buckle with the weight of the world / Stop draggin’ my heart around”. Sigh.
For further longform beautiful and occasionally agonizing listening pleasure, I’d recommend (again, obviously) Rumours, Tusk, Bella Donna, Damn the Torpedoes, and Hard Promises. You obviously can’t go wrong with Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Joni Mitchell. An always-correct answer to “what should I listen to?” is one or another or all of them.
If you’re more into visual media storytelling, there are a ton of documentaries about leading lights of the era: Runnin’ Down a Dream, Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free (which I somehow haven’t watched yet???), History of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, and Echo in the Canyon. The latter is more 1960s-focused – I include it because it features many of the acts Daisy would have been going to see in LA as a teen. Cameron Crowe’s lightly fictionalized coming of age classic, Almost Famous is essential viewing, of course, and I’d be very remiss not to mention Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres, whose work continues to be a North Star for all music writers.
In putting together this issue, I realized that I haven’t read many books about this era. I know there are tons out there, but I can’t really speak to their excellence and engrossing-ness. My apologies! Please do tell me about your favorites! I will turn to the many excellent podcasts (most of which I have listened to) covering not just inspiration for Daisy’s world, but her bestie Simone, the wildly talented and gutsy, queer disco pioneer whose story I wished more than once was at the center of the entire series.
With disco in mind, let’s begin with a bunch of relevant episodes of Chris Molanphy’s peerless music history podcast, Hit Parade. First up: the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer herself. In addition to Summer, Simone’s character and voice also include notes of Merry Clayton (one of the subjects of 20 Feet From Stardom) and Mary J. Blige. I’m also very fond of the episodes on how funk laid the very popular groundwork for disco to flourish, why 1971 was such an outstanding one for pop and rock, and of course, the one about Fleetwood Mac, with a special focus on the late and truly great Christine McVie, songwriter and keyboard player extraordinaire. You’re Wrong About has also dedicated some quality time to debunking myths about disco and reminding us all that the notorious Disco Demolition Night in Chicago’s Comiskey Park was a decidedly racist, homophobic, and sexist event (which nonetheless could not and did not kill disco). The fictional Daisy and Billy (to say nothing of the very real Carole King, Stevie Nicks, and many more) are forebears to one of our best contemporary confessional songwriters, Lucy Dacus, whose conversation with Hanif Abdurraqib on Object of Sound I have queued up for this weekend.
This collection isn’t at all comprehensive, and I can’t wait to read the solid recommendations from Dames Nation’s beautiful music history nerds!
I knew Fleetwood Mac had to make an appearance in this post! Thanks for the roundup!
Watching the series solely for the magic and chemistry that Sam & Riley bring to Billy & Daisy. No, they could never be Stevie & Lindsey (who could, tbh) but they're still super fun to watch.