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The sinners and the songs

The chain of fools: Fleetwood Mac in 1978, the year after the release of their break-up masterpiece, Rumours PICTURE: REX

Fleetwood Mac proved the inspiration for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel

IT WAS the look between Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, while on stage singing Landslide in the late 1970s, that did it. ‘You could just tell they loved each other,’ says the novelist Taylor Jenkins Reid. ‘I was only 13 when I saw it but even then I knew.’

Nicks and Buckingham may well have been in love but they had also recently acrimoniously split up. The nightmare of their situation can be felt in every tormented note of the album they were recording at the time, Rumours (the band’s other couple, John and Christine McVie, were also in the throes of splitting), which remains one of the greatest albums of romantic turmoil ever made. Reid never forgot what she saw as a teenager and it’s finally borne fruit in one of spring’s most talked about new novels, Daisy Jones And The Six, in which a stadium-sized 1970s rock group is almost brought to its knees by the erotic antagonism between its lead songwriter, Billy, and the dazzling, druggie newcomer Daisy Jones. It’s being adapted for TV, complete with an original soundtrack.

Daisy Jones And The Six plunges the reader into the drug-fuelled world of 1970s rock — the stadium tours, the planet-sized egos and the general hedonistic excess. Billy is married to Camilla and has a young family but when his manager suggests bringing in Daisy Jones, a gorgeous, preternaturally talented singer with a coke habit who insists on becoming his co-writer, Billy finds himself creatively and emotionally torn.

The novel is fiction but it’s presented as though it were fact, taking on the form of a script for a docudrama with each band member offering retrospective testimonies on the accumulating sexual and creative tension and its implications for the band. To add to the impression of verisimilitude, Reid also produces the lyrics for every anguished song Jones and Billy write together.

‘I couldn’t see how rock could come to life in a stationary narrative form,’ says Reid. ‘But if I write a work of fiction in such a way that it feels like you are reading non-fiction, that gives the reader a powerful voyeuristic experience — it feels like you are being let in behind a curtain. It’s not just fiction you are reading but gossip.’

Reid was careful to make sure Jones — who often goes barefoot, likes to wear miniskirts and skimpy tops, eats one meal a day and relies on a carefully balanced chemical diet of stimulants and tranquillisers — was not portrayed as a victim.

‘I wouldn’t have been excited about writing Daisy if she was someone who didn’t possess herself,’ she says. ‘She has a lot of vulnerabilities but there are certain things that are simply not up for debate with her. Being told how to dress, for example. Being told to be quiet.

‘There are cracks in her heart but she is not going to allow hers to be used by other people. Instead, I made her a woman who tells men, “If I dress like this and it makes you feel that way, that’s not my problem, it’s yours.”’

This is Reid’s second novel about fame — her previous novel, The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo, was about a fictional movie star. She admits living in Los Angeles has heightened her fascination with the gap between what something looks like and how it feels.

‘These days we are all presenting a star image of ourselves, we are all creating ourselves the way rock icons such as Elvis created himself, because we have these opportunities on social media to show other people what our lives are like,’ she says. ‘But no one wants to tell the truth. So yes, this is a story about 1970s rock stars, but it’s also about how hard it is to go home at the end of the day by yourself and be Daisy Jones.’

I had to respect the dangers of drugs

‘Drugs are the trope of this world. For me to write a book in which all these rock stars are not doing drugs would have felt untrue. But at the end of the day, drugs can kill people and addiction is a disease. So telling that story, and having these people engage in alcohol and various drugs in a way where you feel that I, as the author, have a full respect for the danger and the heartbreak these things can cause, was very important to me.’

Daisy Jones And The Six is out now, published by Penguin