HEARTACHES BY THE NUMBER

How Robert Duncan got a unique gig lasting nearly forty years…

Cricket

Firstly, you’ve got to accept the fact that I am namedropping in this article. If you can’t bear it, look away now…

One of my dearest friends in my strange teenage years was a fab Elvis lookalike (who seemed to get every single girl he fancied) by the name of Gordon Waller. In our early years it was privilege enough to grab any birds he left in his wake, but when he became the Gordon bit of Peter and Gordon (World Without Love. Number one in April 1964) the babe trail was almost endless. Celia Hammond, Joanna Lumley, Sharon Sheeley, hints of Elizabeth Taylor.

Gordon was always a wonderful friend. If I had left my Pinner roots for great things and taken up with the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Brian Jones and Paul McCartney I may have been embarrassed by my simple old friends. Not him. He introduced me to all of them. Jane Asher even taught me how to dance the Madison.

So when I moved to Oxfordshire in the mid seventies Gordon was determined that I should meet an up and coming lyricist by the name of Tim Rice, who lived not five minutes away. I’d heard of him. He’d done something to do with Superstar.

The first meeting took place in the Plough in Great Haseley. Gordon was as amiable as ever, buying drinks until we all felt ill, and telling us graphic details of his louche lifestyle. As I fell out of the door, with Gordon’s adventures with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Australia still ringing in my ears, I thought I had blown it.

However, Tim and I got over this hiccup, and over the following months I got to some great parties at his manorial home, edged my way into several first nights in London, New York and Vienna (the subject of another blog sometime in the future), played bar billiards with him on a regular basis, and on one occasion joined him in a bacon and eggs breakfast at about 1am at my place. On that night he told me the two best jokes I’ve ever heard…

And I got involved with his cricket team, Heartaches CC. Although professing not to be a star side, there were still the likes of David Essex, Peter O’Toole, Mike d’Abo of Manfred Mann fame, Mike Read and John Frieda playing.

All this lead to a yearly publication he produced, the Heartaches Almanack. Starting in simple Wisden form, this slim A6 volume has grown over the years and, 40 years later, boasts perfect binding, 136 pages, and full colour throughout. I have been responsible for the production of all of them apart from the first two, and have drawn hundreds of cartoons, designed loads of ads, and added the occasional witty caption to the photographs I have always taken. You can find some fab Heartaches cartoons on www.duncancartoons.com

One of the highlights of the year is my almanack meeting with Tim, where we weed through all the photos we have gathered over the year, and discuss cover topics, pavilions, teas and all that stuff.

This year’s was finished on the very day it was to be launched – over champagne and canapés at the Oxo Tower, in May. Lovely evening. Almanack and cartoons much appreciated. Mike d’Abo and I had a chat and…oh I’m sorry, I’m namedropping again…