Published: 19 April 1975 – 30 August 1975 (20 episodes)
Artist: Jim Baikie
Translations/reprints: None known
Twins Greg and Flo Carroll have looked after each other since their parents died (from Dad’s reckless driving). Trouble is, Flo acts like Greg’s mother when it comes to running his life. She keeps telling him to carry on with his plumbing course at the technical college, as it will guarantee a job for life. But Greg clearly does not like plumbing (just whose idea was it to pursue it in the first place?). His heart is in showbiz and he wants to pursue a career in pop music. Flo doesn’t approve of this because their late father’s showbiz career was a disaster and drove the family into debt. So before Mum died, she made Flo promise to see to it that Greg pursued a career that guaranteed more job security than showbiz.
Nonetheless, pop music is what Greg begins to pursue, and he is soon on the rise as a pop star. Flo still does not approve and this begins to drive a wedge between the twins. Flo does not like this change in their relationship either, as she and Greg have always been close; but as Greg’s career develops, he begins to drift apart from Flo. He also neglects his plumbing studies and eventually leaves the course. This horrifies Flo as she believes Greg is throwing away a steady job for the sake of an uncertain dream. Moreover, Greg’s manager Vince Telfer has a very sleazy look about him. Telfer encourages Greg to pursue his music career and he takes an active hand in widening the gulf between Flo and Greg.
Still, as far as Greg is concerned, his career is everything his father’s was not – success, fame, loads of money, and gifts he proceeds to shower Flo with. So why can’t Flo get past the tragedy of her father’s failed showbiz career? He is living proof that just because Dad’s career was a flop, it doesn’t mean his own will be. He (rightly) warns Flo that if she carries on being so difficult about his new career they will end up hating each other. However, Flo still thinks it is not the right path for Greg and also feels she failed Mum and the promise she made to her. So the gulf widens even more. And wider still when Flo cleans Greg’s guitar. She accidentally messes up the controls, which turns Greg’s performance into a disaster. When Greg finds out what happened, he thinks Flo did it on purpose because of her attitude, and walks out on her altogether. Telfer keeps feeding this false assumption of Greg’s for all it’s worth: “She’ll do anything to wreck your career, Greg – you know that!” And Greg won’t listen to Flo when she says it was unintentional.
Flo decides the only way to get anywhere near Greg is to disguise herself as one of the fans who keep mobbing him at every turn. She wins a prize draw to an evening with Greg. Telfer sees through Flo’s disguise and causes more trouble for her right in front of the press. Greg really is poisoned against Flo after this, which is all part of Telfer’s ploy to stop Flo getting Greg out of his clutches. Flo soon finds out why Telfer wants to turn Greg against her – Telfer has been fleecing Greg (yes, we thought he looked sleazy!). Telfer is now out to pocket 80% of Greg’s fee on his upcoming provincial tour. However, Flo can’t convince Greg of this and he goes off on his tour.
However, Flo follows him secretly. This means renting a shabby flat and taking a job as a waitress at the gig Greg is playing at. But Flo gets discovered, which causes intense embarrassment for Greg and turns the audience against him. Telfer, of course, takes advantage to widen the rift between the twins and says Flo did that on purpose too. Flo gets sacked and also hurt her wrist during the incident. The only one who notices her injury is Pip, Greg’s kind-hearted drummer. Pip takes Flo to hospital for treatment, and the doctor asks if Greg could perform a charity concert in the children’s ward.
Unfortunately Flo thinks the answer will be no because she is under the impression success is making Greg hard and selfish. A misunderstanding where she thinks Greg has turned down the doctor’s request cements that view. So she impersonates Greg to throw a concert for the kids. However, the press find her and take photos for “Big-Hearted Pop Star Entertains Sick Kids” story. Flo dreads Greg’s reaction when he reads the story, but it has surprising ramifications: a television producer was so impressed that he wants to do a television programme with Greg. Flo and Greg also clear up their misunderstanding, but disaster strikes when the TV producer sees the shabby digs Flo is renting and thinks Greg is to blame.
Now Greg has seen how Flo is living he puts her in more posh accommodation. He also spruces her up in luxury, saying that as a sister of a pop star she must have the look for it. But Flo soon finds the high life isn’t as fulfilling as it first seemed and wants to go back to being useful. Unfortunately this leads to a series of mishaps that widen the gulf between her and Greg again. First, Flo finds a sick maid and she offers to finish her duties for her. When Greg and the TV producer find Flo at it, it’s another embarrassment. And then there’s another embarrassment when Greg acts as judge at a fete but Flo gets horribly messed up from cleaning up a dog. When Greg and his high-rise friends come to Flo’s suite with caviar and champagne, he is really shown up when he finds Flo enjoying kippers and cocoa with Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mabel: “Why can’t you be a credit to me, instead of slumming with a couple of old deadbeats you picked up off the street?”
Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mabel agree with Flo that success is changing Greg for the worse. Then Flo finds Greg has left flowers on their parents’ graves and the twins start hugging each other. She wonders if she has judged him too harshly, but then thinks it was all a publicity stunt when the press photograph them (it was, but Telfer arranged it behind Greg’s back). After this, Flo heads back to their old home in London. She bumps into Greg again at one his open-air concerts and they proceed to make up. But Telfer does his best to come between them again – and so do mobs of fans. Flo is also feeling neglected because Greg’s getting too busy with his pop career to devote any time to her and the only place she can see him these days is on television.
Then Flo realises Telfer is driving Greg too hard and he’s beginning to fall ill from exhaustion. When she and Pip try to speak to Telfer, he sacks Pip and throws them both out. Undaunted, they smuggle Greg out in a drum and take him on holiday. While on holiday, Greg takes delight in throwing concerts for the villager. Flo has come to realise that Greg has show business in his blood.
But then Telfer comes along with a bombshell – Greg’s holiday has caused him to miss an opportunity for an American tour! Following this, Flo decides to just let Greg pursue his pop career and goes back to her old life. Six months pass without even seeing Greg, but painful reminders of him are everywhere. Greg sends Flo regular cheques, which she puts into the bank. While at the bank, Pip and a bunch of would-be pop musicians put on a performance. They hope the bank manager will back them for their road musical, which he does not.
Now it’s Flo’s birthday and she hopes Greg will make the effort to come and celebrate it. But all he does is send her flowers, as he can’t make the time to come. Then Flo finds out Greg is off on an American tour, so now he will be even more distanced from her. She is so upset she stumbles into the road and gets hit by a truck.
Flo’s condition is critical and she needs Greg urgently. Greg has a horrible sense of foreboding and feels he should check on Flo. However, Telfer does not want Greg to find out about Flo’s accident as he wants him on the plane for his American tour. Pip rushes to the airport to inform Greg, but Telfer locks him up. By the time Pip gets out, the plane is flying. In hospital, Flo senses Greg departing and her condition worsens.
Then the plane suddenly returns to the airport because of mechanical problems. This time Pip manages to tell Greg about Flo’s accident and how Telfer tried to stop him finding out. Greg goes to the hospital, and tells Telfer to shove it when he tries to get him back on the plane or lose the American contract. Greg’s arrival turns Flo around, and Greg says the shock has opened his eyes to what his true priorities in life are. So when Telfer arrives, Greg angrily breaks contract with him (which has Telfer pocket all of Greg’s money) and ends his pop career. Greg turns to a new line in showbiz – getting Pip’s show on the road. They have no money because of Telfer, but Flo can finance them with the money Greg sent her before. The show is a huge success and makes Flo and Greg joint stars.
This story starts with a premise that is so familiar in girls’ comics, except that it is turned on its head and given a whole new take. The protagonist is frustrated in pursuing her (or in this case his) choice of career by interfering relatives because they got burned by some family tragedy associated with it. The protagonist gets pushed down a career path of the relative’s choice, and the relative cannot accept that the protagonist does not want it and may not have the aptitude for it either. Examples in Jinty include “The Goose Girl”, where Glenda Noble’s mother keeps pushing her into fashion design instead of the ornithology where Glenda’s heart really lies.
But instead of a parent/guardian pushing a daughter in this way it’s a sister pushing her brother. It’s a bit unclear as to just how Greg came to study plumbing, for it does not look like he would choose it himself. It is a bit hard to believe that Flo would be able to press him into taking up plumbing, though she could have. The parents have been dead for several years, so there could not have been any pressure from them either. Perhaps Greg just took the course to please his sister. However it happened, Flo carries on Greg’s mother in the way she keeps pushing him to be a plumber because in her view it would guarantee a good, steady job while showbiz is too uncertain for that. She does not stop to think whether it is something Greg really wants or would be happy doing. One has to applaud Greg when he decides, in effect “screw you – I’m going to pursue a career in showbiz, whether you like it or not!” – and follows his heart into showbiz.
Flo’s bad reaction to this and difficulty in accepting it means she must take at least some of the blame for the widening rift with her brother. If she had been more respectful of her brother’s feelings it would have made things far easier for them both. Eventually Flo does come to accept that showbiz, however much trouble it caused for the family in the past, is in her brother’s blood. But she can’t accept this at first and is too badly prejudiced by the bad legacy of their father’s failed showbiz career to agree with Greg pursuing it. It is ironic that Flo ends up going full circle from disapproving of a showbiz career to sharing it with Greg at the end of the story.
Flo’s doubts about whether the pop career will bring Greg true happiness prove to be more prophetic than her disapproval about him pursuing showbiz. This is particular so considering the type of manager Greg has ended up with. Vince Telfer is a greedy, crooked and ruthless man who clearly took advantage of Greg’s greenness in signing him up. Greg can’t see that Telfer is just using him as a means to line his own pockets by hook or by crook and he does not care about his wellbeing one bit. Even when Telfer starts driving Greg so hard that he is on the brink of collapse, Greg does not wake up. It takes a horrible shock to make Greg see Telfer for what he is. Sadly, it looks like Telfer gets away with all that fleecing he did on Greg. He even pockets all of Greg’s money after he breaks contract. Clearly, Greg overlooked some fine print that shifty Telfer inserted about breach of contract.
Even without Telfer’s cheating, Greg’s pop career soon takes a course that proves Flo right – it is not bringing him happiness. As Greg’s pop career progresses the story shifts towards “the price of fame” premise where fame, success and fortune come at the cost of family and personal life. Flo feels increasingly isolated and distanced from the twin brother she was once so close to and feels neglected. Greg also discovers the pitfalls of being a pop star, such as becoming public property, being constantly hounded by fans, and having no time for family (or himself, probably). Eventually he decides a career that makes him turn his back on his family is the wrong one, but he takes a long time to realise it and it takes a shock to do the trick. Greg is too blinded by his success and the bad influence of his dodgy manager, who pulls every trick he can to keep Greg under his thumb and line his pockets. Fame is clearly having a bad effect on Greg. It never goes completely to Greg’s head and he becomes conceited or unbearable. But he is showing signs of snobbery and selfishness and losing sight of the warm-heartedness he used to have. By contrast, once Flo has a taste of Greg’s high life she does not like it; she wants a down-to-earth life where she helps people.
The story is also unusual for giving male protagonists more attention. Usually, boys were kept on the periphery in girls’ comics during the 1960s–1970s. There is Greg, of course, but there is also Pip the drummer. Pip is a humble, kind, good-natured boy whose own pursuit of showbiz is an uplifting and delightful contrast to the glamour and glitz of Greg’s pop career that comes at the price of happiness. Pip is also a tremendous help to both Flo and Greg in getting through their difficulties with Telfer and Greg’s pop career until they break free of it and start working together on their own gig. Had this story appeared in the late 1980s we have a strong suspicion Pip and Flo would have started dating. However, this was still not allowed in girls’ comics at the time of publication.
7 thoughts on “Face the Music, Flo! (1975)”
I’m interested to see the beginning of the story, with their parents having died because of the father’s reckless driving – I never knew that.
Would you like scans of it?
Thanks, I would do!