Next to Coventry, Rugby Town has given the area more hit bands than anyone. It’s Jigsaw however that are remembered above the rest, this all round band had talent to spare, but it would take a movie song to see them conquer the world! Pete Chambers Investigates.
Formed in Rugby in 1966, although Bernard and Scott were Coventry kids. They were a veritable local ‘super group’ comprising of Clive Scott (who was then a resident of Radford) on vocals and keyboards (from the Atlantics and the Transatlantics), Barry Bernard on bass (from The Vampires and Pinkertons Colours). Kevin Mahon on tenor sax , Tony Campbell guitar , Dave Beech on drums ( all from The Mighty Avengers (SEE THE MIGHTY AVENGERS) Tony Britnel (from The Fortunes) Des Dyer (from Rugby’s Surf Siders) joined in 1967 following Dave ‘Biffo Beech’s departure.
I asked Tony Campbell to tell me how Jigsaw had come about. “The Mighty Avengers had become disenchanted (I think thats the right word) with the business. The last straw was when our van had been wrecked outside Biffo’s house. The disenchantment had lead to arguments, and we all decided to go back to a daytime job. I was a big fan of Cliff Bennet, and decided to start a six-piece band, just to have some fun, with no serious intent. I wanted people that I knew would get along well even though none of us were particularly good musicians. I knew that being couped up in dressing rooms and in vans was always bound to bring out the worst (and best) in people. I was living with Kevin (Beppy) and his family at the time, and he had decided to learn saxophone to pair up with Tony Britnel whom I had known for a long time. (He was in one of my earlier bands – The Medinas before joining and leaving Reg Calvert’s Fortunes). Biffo got a bit upset when I said that I was going to start a new band, and hadn’t included him. This was my fault, since I thought that he wasn’t interested. We then actually had three members of the Avengers in the original Jigsaw. Clive Scott had approached the Avengers with his song writing abilities, but we realised he was a good keyboard man and sang as well. I only needed a bass player to get operational. I spent three weeks trying to find Barrie Bernard. I had known him well for a number of years and we had talked about working together one day (usually when playing cards all night at his digs in Cromwell Road). I eventually found him at the Nags Head in Nuneaton. His first words to me that night were “Tone, I need a job”. My reply was “You’ve got one”.
They played regularly in Coventry at Mr George’s, It would take some 2 years before they released their debut single One Way street. Their vocal harmonies and imaginative lyrics saw them release classic song after classic song, none unfortunately heading chartwards. Indeed their 1972 single, “That’s What It’s all About” Is probably as good as any song Paul McCartney has ever penned, again, no hit. Just to compound things in 1974 the bands writing machine Scott & Dyer were to have a massive hit on their hands, but ironically it wasn’t for Jigsaw. The song was “Who Do You Think You Are”, an infectious slice of commercial pop that gave the band Candlewick Green a number 21 hit with it in the UK and Europe (All members of Jigsaw recorded the backing track, with Candlewick Green vocals by the way). On top of that Claude Francoise charted with the song in France and in America Bo Donaldson got it number 12.
Their own chart success was to continue to elude them. However when the guys joined Splash Records (their sixth label), the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Their big break came when an Australian film company was looking for a theme tune for the movie Man From Hong Kong. David Essex and The Four Tops were approached, but turned it down due to their work commitments. Jigsaw took it on despite the fact that they had just completed an album, and only had three days to come up with something brand new. The song was handed over with little enthusiasm on the part of the writers Des Dyer and Clive Scott.
Imagine their surprise when they suddenly found they had an Australian number one on their hands! The song of course was the quite brilliant “Sky High”, a tune that no one could escape from in 1975. It seemed to crop up everywhere (it also cropped up at number 9 in the UK singles charts and at an amazing number 3 in the good old US of A).
Jigsaw fever was well and truly kicking off around the globe. Clive and Des won the most performed song in 1975 award, then later an Ivor Novello certificate of honour award. They began a lengthy world tour, fitting in TV appearances in Spain, America, UK and Japan In 1976 Sky High also became a Japanese number one, it would stay in the Nippon charts for an incredible two years thanks to a major Sumo wrestler using it as his entrance music. Their Japanese tour was reminiscent of Beatlemania, with the guys being mobbed every night. World-wide Sky High sold in excess of 3 Million. It took 8 years for the guys to make it, but when it came it came big time, but went just as quickly!
The UK follow up single was “If I Have To Go Away”, good but not in the same league as Sky High, it did however make a dent in the UK charts at 36. While it’s US counterpart “Love Fire” made 30 in the Billboard charts. By 1978 it was all over bar the shouting. They continued for a while to work in production and contribute to film soundtracks. In 1994 we had a triple ‘local’ connection when Mike Stock and Matt Aitken (without Coventry’s Pete Waterman) produced a cover version of Jigsaw’s “Sky High” for an artist called Newton whose real name was Billy Myers. Not the same Cov artist Billie Myers (wrong sex for a start) but an interesting coincidence. It would reach number 56 on it’s second release.
Of late, Tony Campbell is working in the Flight Case industry. Barry Bernard is a D.J./children’s entertainer and conjurer. While Des is still singing in the clubs in a Duo with Steve Fern called “Fingers & Fumbs”. He is also now teaching Drums at various different schools. Clive Scott is still working full time in the music industry, as a writer and producer and has a recording studio called Racetrack Studios. He writes for the likes of Boyzone ,Blue and Denise Van Outen.
- On one appearance of Top Of The Pops a certain Mr Pete Waterman was also appearing with the song Good-By-Ee dressed up as a WW1 soldier in the next dressing room, although he spent most of the time in theirs.
- The name Jigsaw was chosen because “The Mighty Avengers used to play at the Jigsaw club in Manchester when part of the Kennedy Street scene, and I had always thought it would make a good name for a band”, reveals Tony.
- Their first brush with fame came in 1972 when US combo Apollo 100 took Jigsaw’s arrangement
of Bach’s Jesu Joy Of Mans Desiring to number 6 in the US charts re-titled as Joy.
- When Des Dyer joined the band he was still at school, he became the only boy at school to drive there in his own yellow mini car!