Flashback: Remembering Coventry band Jigsaw
Pete Clemons on the sixties and seventies Coventry and Rugby musical outfit
Jigsaw, formed in 1966, were a group from whose band members came from both Coventry and Rugby. Essentially they were born out of the ashes of another Rugby group The Mighty Avengers but also included members of The Antarctic’s, The Beat Preachers and others. They were active continuously for almost the next twenty years.
Formed by guitar player Tony Campbell the band started life as a six piece and, later on in the bands life - and through the formidable song writing team of organist Clive Scott and drummer Des Dyer - Jigsaw scored a succession of worldwide hits.
Their discography runs to many singles and albums.
In addition to Campbell the original line up was Scott on keyboards and vocals, Barry Bernard on bass, Tony Britnell on saxophone, Kevin Mahon also on sax and Dave Beech on drums. Des Dyer joined a year or so after the initial formation of the band and, in addition to taking over on drums, he also took on the role as lead vocalist.
Soon after forming, Jigsaw without doubt became one of the hardest gigging bands in the region. They quickly secured regular slots at venues The Walsgrave, The Cheylesmore, The Baginton Oak and The Parkstone Club.
During this period it would be fair to say that Jigsaw were more in keeping with the other ‘underground’ bands of the day. They released their first single during 1968 and their music was blues based and incredibly ambitious. This was reflected in their debut concept album ‘Letherslade Farm’, released on the Philips label in 1970.
This incredibly rare album, named after the hide out used by the great train robber’s bears no resemblance at all to the music that they would later become renowned for. Essentially it is a satirical view of the music industry, at that time, and is one continuous story which tells the tale of a broken down pop singer. Arguably ahead of its time ‘Letherslade Farm’ did have its moments though in the form of ‘Diesel Blues’ and a version of Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’. Sadly none of the bands early releases charted.
Undeterred, the hard work and the regular round of local gigs continued for Jigsaw and during the very early 1970’s the band was given an opportunity to turn professional.
The security of day jobs needed to be considered so it must have been a huge decision for the band members to have to make.
It was at this point that Kevin Mahon decided to leave the band. However, the rest of them went for it and the band’s first major engagement was a European tour supporting soul legend Arthur Conley.
Jigsaw had, by now, gained a tremendous reputation for their stage presence. Wild and exciting was probably a more apt description. Explosions, fire eating, drum kit demolitions were quite common place. I can still clearly remember seeing them once damage a concert room. To be fair the hole left in the ceiling was totally unintentional – the band member leaping from the top of the organ was clearly unaware of the venue’s low headroom.
The next step change for Jigsaw came when sax player Tony Britnell left the band. He would however return to the music scene when he became a member of Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets.
During the early to mid 1970s the whole music scene was splintering in all directions and, like other bands, Jigsaw took on a whole new direction. Clive Scott and Des Dyer began writing and recording more mainstream music with the intention of appealing to a wider audience.
But a change of fortunes for Jigsaw was just around the corner. The success of Scott and Dyer as song writers was almost instant as their song ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ was a top 20 hit for Opportunity Knocks winners Candlewick Green in 1974.
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Although not released as a single Jigsaw’s own version of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ can be found on the 1974 album ‘I’ve Seen The Film, I’ve Read The Book’. Further singles were released at this time but without chart success. This meant them being dropped by their then recording label, BASF.
Then in November 1975 another Scott and Dyer composition, ‘Sky High’, became a huge worldwide smash for Jigsaw. The song became instantly recognisable. The single, their first for the Splash label, peaked at No.9 in the UK and No.3 in the U.S. It was also a huge hit, selling incredibly well, in Japan. An album of the same name also sold strongly.
1976 saw the band hit the U.S. top 30 again with “Love Fire” and then again in 1977 with “If I Have to Go Away” which charted in the UK as well. But it was in America where Jigsaw, arguably, gained most of their chart successes.
1978 saw bass player Barry Bernard leave the band. Various replacements came and went but by the early 1980s Jigsaw had split for good and ceased to be a live unit. It was not quite the end of the music though as, through the advent of the compact disc, the inevitable greatest hits albums and compilations followed.
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Post Jigsaw both Clive Scott and Des Dyer continued their song writing. They worked with artists such as Boyzone and Bad Boys Inc.. During 1983 and again in 1985 Scott and Dyer made attempts at representing the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest by entering the ‘A Song For Europe’ competitions. Their 1983 song ‘With Love’ performed by Casablanca finished a creditable third while their 1985 effort ‘Energy’, this time performed by Des himself, finished fourth out of the eight songs considered.
Clive Scott then moved into the world of production, and along with Ray Hedges, oversaw several recordings that The Nolan’s had produced for the Japanese market. The Nineties saw him team up with the Northern Soul DJ turned producer Ian Levine and worked with Blue, Billie Piper, Gloria Gaynor and the Italian artist Lorenz. Sadly Clive passed away aged just 64 during May 2009.
Whether you prefer their progressive rock style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s or the lighter, more mainstream, pop of the mid 1970’s then Jigsaw’s considerable and varied legacy is well worth searching out.