Tuesday, October 23, 2007

High School Bands

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston shows not only that she is out of touch with today’s teenagers, but she is out of touch with musicians everywhere. The premise of the argument being put forth is that playing for fun is different from:
a. Playing for money.
b. Being famous.
c. Being good academically
d. Being happy.
I sing in amateur choruses and I have done so ever since before my high school years. I can tell with certainty that Lynn Johnston’s basic argument is completely wrong. Perhaps she means to say, that cartooning for fun is different from those things she mentions. I never played in a garage band, but I am somewhat familiar with the experience.

Growing up in Western North Carolina, there were a few high school garage bands in my high school who were good enough to make money playing. The best ones were Bluegrass bands, which I don’t think is a typical garage band for most of the rest of America. Two of my best friends played in two different Bluegrass bands and they played pretty regularly for paying gigs. The people who hired them liked them because they were dirt cheap compared to professionals, and the kids themselves made so much money doing that (compared to what high school students make at jobs), they had plenty of money to pay for a very active social life. When my friends told me how much they got paid, which was about $100 per gig for each member of their band back in those days, I was incredibly jealous. By the way, neither of these guys plays music professionally today. One works in a machine shop, and the other works as a doctor.

They had a good time playing in their garage bands. They got to stay out late, and girls thought they were cool. They didn’t have to work at Megafood bagging groceries to make money, or hauling plants for a nursery, or baby-sitting their brother’s kids. You see, if April really wanted that car she was talking about in her monthly letters, the course of action she is taking with the band is the exact opposite of the way she should go. She can make more money in 2-3 hours playing with the band than she would make working at Lilliputs’ all day or baby-sitting for her brother all day. Once the band has reached a certain proficiency and established a repertoire, it is actually a less time-consuming activity than the jobs April works.

However, the real reason I can tell that Lynn Johnston has never been a musician is that anyone who ever experienced the rush of having put your body, heart and soul into a great performance, and hearing an audience leap to their feet in an ovation would never ever say that performing just for fun is good enough. Live performance is so much better than sitting around someone’s garage and playing for yourself. It would be difficult for me to find a subject presented in For Better or For Worse, which is more wrong-headed than the one Lynn Johnston presented today.


Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

Lynn is too smug in her ignorance to ever acknowledge how full of carp she is. Besides, wherether playing music for money is fun isn't the point. Ising it as a metaphor for the strip is. I have the dreadful suspicion Lynn is really saying that if she weren't a celebrity, Rod wouldn't have cheated on her. Again, she's full of shit. If a man is gonna step out, why he does it don't matter. If she were the Suzy Housecoat type she thought he wanted, he'd've found a different excuse for his adultery. She should be glad she's rich! That way, she desn't have to race around trying to make ends meet.

2:14 AM  
Blogger howard said...


I don't know about this one. I had read in some place an article about the psychology of rich women and how they pick their men. There is still an element that their husband has to work and make a very good living, even if they cannot match the woman in wealth. I have encountered this many times, just with women who judge the man in a married couple based on his salary, when they wouldn't think of making the same judgment of a woman. I would think that as a dentist, Rod Johnston would have done very well, even if he did not make as much as Lynn. Nevertheless, she was dirt poor when she met Rod, and there is no telling how the sudden increase in wealth affected her as far as the way she treated him. I do not know if that same psychology with a wealthly woman choosing a man applies to a woman with acquired wealth. I don't think adultery is just something a man will do, regardless of circumstance. He has to have motive and he has to have opportunity.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous dlauthor said...

I still think that Lynn's presentation of Proper Behavior During a House Fire is more wrong-headed than this. But this is bad, I'll give it that.

7:18 AM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

That is good point. We have no real idea why their marriage want sour so my speculation is just that. There is something wrong with her somewhere, however, if she keeps blathering about how bad it is to be famous. I should think that a person in her position would get a lot more fun out of life than a regular working stiff. Granted, slogging over a drawing board is like any other repetitive manual labor but she's got a lot more to show for it than if she were a seamstress or something. Envying the 'simple' life like she does is game rich people like her have the luxury of playing.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if it's success Lynn has a problem with, but rather music in general. Music seems to be a terrible thing in FBorFW. It took away Becky's friends and gave her sycophants; it broke up Jeremy's home and made him a Bad Kid; the racket in the basement drives Elly mad, but then what doesn't do that.

And it's curious to me that none of Lynn's avatars/extensions seem to be musical. Elly doesn't play an instrument, Mike never wanted to learn (but I never read the earlier strips so I might be wrong), and Liz only ever vaguely expressed a regret at giving up piano.

I get the impression that this is Lynn sucking on some sour grapes. Perhaps she begrudges people taking music seriously because she was never able to do it herself?

8:15 AM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...


That's a good point. It'd also explain why pro musician Phil is the black sheep of the Richards family. Not only did he marry late in life but, as far as I know, doesn't have any children. Those two things mark him as being irresponsible in Lynn's eyes.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll go out on a limb and say that Lynn just doesn't want to show anything that leads away from the predictable middle class 8-5 lifestyle in a person's hometown as desirable.

Mike stays in Milbo; his success is okay (we'll see how the book promotions are dealt with); Liz goes off to teach--gets that out of her system but her real *happiness* is going to be back in Milbo with her old boyfriend and a ready-made family and a traditional classroom (until she stops working to be a stay-at-home). The band should be happy to stay in Milbo; if not, then April will be a vet and establish a practice there.

Becky is bad for wanting a different lifestyle, the Mtig crew is too different, and Therese is evil for wanting a career.


10:36 AM  
Blogger howard said...


You might be right that the 8-5 lifestyle is what Lynn is trying to praise, but the mistake would be to think that performing music will get in the way of that. Community choruses and bands dot the country because there are persons with 8-5 lifestyles who want to have the opportunity to perform for other people, even though they work the 8-5 lifestyle. In North Bay, which is right next to Corbeil, there is a community orchestra and a community chorus.

I am afraid Anonymous might be right and the problem is with music in general. In addition to Anonymous’s examples, there have been a number of strips where Elly has been shown to disapprove of Liz or April’s choice in music. I think Elly has been shown only to like Bobby Curtola music. I can’t think of when she has attended any concerts and said she liked the music, even when Grandpa Jim was performing. Of course, with Grandpa Jim, doing a performance with the New Bentwood Rockers, didn’t take away from any kind of career ambitions. Maybe that’s the key. You can be in a band after you retire.

11:19 AM  
Blogger howard said...


Good point about Proper Behavior During a House Fire. I guess I would add Proper Behaviour after an Attempted Rape to that list. I'll put this as third in wrong-headedness.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This strip was dead on. My brother has played in a band for the last two years in Southern Ontario and it takes alot of time and alot of work. They are the best in the area but often don't make enough money at a gig to pay the gas. They now rarely take gigs that will cost them money. Right now the 5 boys (between the ages of 16-25) are deciding how much they want to continue to put into the band. As they are not yet famous, and few can continue to sacrifice the time away from jobs, school, family, girlfriends, etc. I think most Canadian garage bands go through the conversations written by Lynn these past couple of days.

12:34 PM  
Blogger howard said...


Everything is relative. My father-in-law played in his garage band in the Dallas, Texas area from the time he was in high school until turned 60. I remember asking him if he had any aspirations to become famous, and he told me that they had run into Dallas bands in the past who wanted that, but that kind of performing was too much work for him and the rest of the band. They were content to play weekends at a few clubs they liked and who liked and regularly booked them. Playing weekends did not interfere much with their jobs. They finally stopped when some of the band members retired and moved away from the Dallas area.

Your brother’s band sounds more involved than my father-in-law’s band since you mention being famous is a possibility for them. I could believe that Lynn Johnston’s conversation would match their situation, with people 16-25 years old. However, April’s band has performed exactly 1 time since they originally got together, so the conversation for them should be more along the lines of “We only played together in public once last year when April’s Uncle Phil was with us. We haven’t performed any other time, unless you count that mall telethon, which wasn’t really us because Luis and Duncan weren’t there and Gerald played with Becky. I don’t know if I want to start performing now. It might take up too much time.”

3:19 PM  
Anonymous dlauthor said...

You know, "Stump of Mediocrity" could be the new name of this strip.

Or it could be a good name for a band, I guess.

Really, I'd say to Gerald, relax. You're all going to different universities soon anyway, so the band would have to break up regardless. Join another band in whatever town you end up going to for school. Plenty of them looking for drummers, and some of them have actual guitarists who play a real electric guitar. Also, that don't suck out loud.

3:45 PM  
Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said...

One gig wherein they only succeeded due to the failure of a rival AND a ringer followed by an embarrassingly bad solo effort by the lead singers months later is a clear sign that THE BAND is a spent force. The notion that they want to disband because they realize this would make more sense, wouldn't it? Odds are, if they were still writing the retcons the person pretending to be April would mention that as the real reason they broke up. It may also be that Lynn intended to portray Gerald's belief they are about to make the big time is simply the result of his misleading himself but, as always, did a substandard job of it.

3:46 PM  
Blogger howard said...


You have good advice for Gerald, although the question at hand is whether or not he will accept this advice. Mentioned more than once in the monthly letters was the idea that a band break-up corresponded with a relationship breakup. April indicated during the Hearts Together telethon if Gerald went to play with Becky on tour, then that would be the end of their relationship. This whole sequence is predicated on the idea that Gerald and April are at two different perspectives with respect to the band and moreover, they are not talking to each other about the band’s future or much of anything else. However, I will give Gerald points for noticing April was upset with his getting the Halloween gig for the band. Notice the dialogue in today’s strip is set between the boys, and Eva’s affection for Duncan is in clear contrast to April’s very cold stance toward Gerald.

Gerald could decide that he will join the rest of the group in doing nothing more with the band except play for fun. He could jump straight over to perform with Becky, who doesn’t have the same concerns 4Evah&Eva has with academics and performing, and who already has some experience with Gerald the drummer. He could also do both, if it weren’t for the idea April would consider that to be tantamount to having a relationship with Becky. There is a long-standing plotline from years back that hinted Becky would take April’s boyfriend from her, although in this case, it would be less taking than picking up a discard.

5:07 PM  
Blogger howard said...


It is very difficult to tell the actual quality of 4Evah&Eva by any standard. Becky said Eva and April performed well at that telethon, but then Lynn had a recording made and we could tell it was OK, but not great. The oddest part about the band is that even when the monthly letters were occurring, they did not mention the band doing performances, just rehearsals. I agree if there were monthly letters for October, 2007, they would either say Gerald is deluding himself, or there have been a lot of performances since April got back from the farm.

5:08 PM  

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