Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jigsaw Put The Pieces Together For Chart Success

One of the earliest pop music songs I recall falling in love with was ‘Sky High’ from the year 1975. At the time I was but a slip of a lad, six going on seven, but thanks to having a sister five years older than me, I began watching the ABC’s ‘Countdown’ music show here in Australia from about that time. Countdown was groundbreaking for so many reasons, but one of the most innovative was it used and actively sought out promotional video clips for single releases, which up until that time were still not so widely used (we’re talking five years before MTV was launched).

The band behind the song ‘Sky High’ was a British pop quartet by
the name of Jigsaw. Interestingly when the song ‘Sky High’ was released in Australia in mid ‘75 it was credited to British Jigsaw. The reason for the name change came about due to there already being an Australian based band called Jigsaw. The Australian version of Jigsaw had already experienced considerable chart success at home between 1970 and 1974 (including the top 10 hits ‘Yellow River’ and ‘How Do You Do’). To avoid a clash of names the overseas group had the ‘British’ tag added - the same thing happened a few years later when British act Squeeze burst on to the scene in Australia with their hit ‘Cool For Cats’, they had the prefix of U.K. added here because there was at that time an Australian band also called Squeeze. It’s interesting in researching some of the information for this post that there are a lot of websites out there that still confuse the identity of the ‘British’ Jigsaw with the ‘Australian’ Jigsaw, but they were indeed two very distinct acts (not to mention the Dutch band of the same name around the same time).

The British band Jigsaw had been going since 1966. Orig
inally they were a six piece and their early work was influenced strongly by the prevalent British bands of the time, The Beatles, Small Faces etc. Guitarist Tony Campbell was the creative driving force early on, and it was he that came up with the band’s name, in reference to The Jigsaw Club in Manchester. Several lineup changes occurred over the next few years, and there were marked shifts in the band’s style and musical direction. By the early 70s Jigsaw had settled into more of a mainstream pop act, though the band maintained a reputation for outrageous stage antics. Big time commercial success continued to elude the band, though in fairness they were largely a touring act to that point. By the time the mid 70s rolled around Jigsaw’s core lineup had dwindled to the quartet of Des Dyer (vocals/drums), Clive Scott (keyboards/vocals), Tony Campbell (guitar) and Barrie Bernard (bass).

Out of the blue ‘Sky High’ was a massive hit around the world and launched Jigsaw, temporarily at least, to great heights. In their home market the song reached #9, but soared higher on the charts in the U.S. (#3) and landed at #1
in Japan. Here in Australia ‘Sky High’ cruised at a comfortable altitude of #3. It was featured in the motion picture ’The Man From Hong Kong’ which starred ex-James Bond actor George Lazenby. In fact in some markets the single’s full title was ’Sky High (Theme From ‘The Man From Hong Kong’)’. In the U.S. the film’s title was ‘The Dragon Flies’. I can vividly recall seeing a promo clip for ‘Sky High’ on Countdown, for two reasons. Firstly, it featured snippets from the film ’The Man From Hong Kong’ throughout (lots of cool stunts and car crashes), and secondly in the promo clip seen on Countdown the song was being sung by an Asian guy standing in a recording studio. Now what stood out to me about that is he was wearing a digital watch, which to be truthful seemed really whiz-bang super-hyper futuristic to me at the time, and caused me to have an obsession about having a digital watch (which thankfully faded over time). It wasn’t until many years later when I finally saw the promo clip featuring the actual band Jigsaw performing the song (next to an airport of all places) that I realised I had been duped by the clip I’d seen way back in ‘75. I’m guessing on reflection that clip was pieced together for the purposes of promoting the film ‘The Man From Hong Kong’ more than the song ‘Sky High’.

Jigsaw enjoyed further chart success amidst the fallout from ‘Sky High’. The single ‘Love Fire’ reached #30 in the U.S. in 1976 and two other minor chart hits followed through to 1977 including ‘If I Have To Go Away’ (the band’s only other U.K. hit). A follow up album ‘Journey Into Space’ was recorded, but proved to be a journey that failed to leave the launch
pad, having never been released. Some more personnel changes followed and by 1981 Jigsaw had ground to a halt on the touring front. A revamped lineup recorded some more material into the early 80s, including a couple of disco style songs (what were they thinking?). Clive Scott and Des Dyer continued on with their song writing partnership and have penned hits for artists such as Nicki French and Boyzone. From time to time various lineups of Jigsaw have reformed to play concerts, though aside from some newly recorded material included on a 1995 ’Best Of’, they’ve not released any new albums.

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