The Jigsaw of Joy

On the first Billboard chart of 1972, 40 years ago this month, there appeared an instrumental called “Joy” by the group Apollo 100. (Oh-so-trendy name, Apollo 100, with two more Apollo missions set to go to the moon in that year.) The pop-rock version of Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” zoomed up the chart, going from 100 to 90 to 49 to 35 to 15 by the week of January 29—and that’s about the time I first heard it, and bought the 45. It made the WLS Hit Parade dated January 31, 1972, where it rose to #4 at the end of February, outperforming its Billboard peak position of #6, reached the same week.

Apollo 100 featured arranger and instrumentalist Tom Parker, and it included four other musicians including Clem Cattini, whose claim to fame is having played drums on 45 British Number Ones including “Telstar” by the Tornadoes (a band of which he was officially a member), “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” by Edison Lighthouse, and “When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees. Both Apollo 100 albums, Joy and Master Pieces, feature classical adaptations and original compositions; Master Pieces features an eye-opening cover and contains some odd versions of songs by others, including “Telstar” and “Popcorn,” the synthesizer piece made famous by the studio group Hot Butter. But after those two albums, Apollo 100 was history, and what became of Tom Parker after that, the Internet is not forthcoming.

Although Apollo 100 was English, “Joy” was released in the States by the Mega label of Memphis, known mainly for country music, including Sammi Smith’s single “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and several of her albums, although the label’s discography features quite the smorgasbord. There was an album by country singer Mack Vickery called Live at the Alabama Women’s Prison, and, coincidentally, an album by Glen Sherley, the inmate at Folsom Prison in California who had written “Greystone Chapel,” performed by Johnny Cash during his famous 1968 concert there. Mega also released a series of jazz and R&B albums, including an early solo release by Larry Coryell, and several records by Bill Black’s Combo. But I digress.

Every early-1970s kid whose piano teacher handed him the sheet music for “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” wanted to play it at Apollo 100 speed, which is not what Bach intended. While we can blame Tom Parker for it, what with his record becoming a Top-10 hit and all, it was not his idea originally.

In late 1975, the group Jigsaw would become famous for the slick “Sky High.” Band members Clive Scott and Des Dyer had written “Who Do You Think You Are?,” which had been an American hit for Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods the year before. In their early years, however, they were not a pop band at all. They had spent part of 1970 as a show band backing soul singer Arthur Conley, spicing their act with explosions and fire-eating. By the end of 1970, however, they had released their first album, Letherslade Farm, a prog-rock album that is the diametric opposite of fiery R&B. Letherslade Farm features a handful of songs, but most of its running time is taken up with fake interviews and obtuse comedy bits, none of which have much value. One of the songs is a rock version of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”—and it turns out that Apollo 100’s version is pretty much a straight lift from what Jigsaw did. Parker shortened it, thereby improving it a lot—but the fact remains that rocking up that particular classical piece was Jigsaw’s idea first.

3 responses

  1. Art Robinson (air name) | Reply

    I worked at ‘AMS in the late 70’s and early 80’s and did Oldies on Sunday night. Occasionally I would get requests for Teddy and the Continentals but I was not familiar with the body of work published by Teddy and the Continentals from Wilmington DE

    I am however, familiar with Teddy and the Continentals from Pottstown PA: Frank Ciprero, Tony Pace, Ronnie Davidheiser and the late Teddy Henry up front on lead vocals. The you tube pics of the Wilmington group are obviously not the kids from Pottstown. On the tunes released on RICHIE, the names of these 4 are listed. I was at Ronnie’s house (across the street from me in Pottstown) on many occasions watching and listening during rehearsals, I have originals on RICHIE (later RITCHIE) from the day the disks were pressed.

    There were then, 2 groups with that name.

  2. Thanks for providing the Jigsaw-Parker link; never knew that’s where Tom’d snagged the arrangement. The Jigsaw take sounds strikingly similar to Ekseption, whose 1970 LP provided both the news and sports intros at the ol’ college station. Speaking of which, “Joy” became a staff favorite from the moment it arrived in early fall, ’71, topped the station’s chart and had pretty much run its course before the year was out. We were actually shocked when the top 40s began to play it in ’72.

    Mega Records would not prove be Apollo 100’s final Nashville connection: “Ninth Of Beethoven” arrived on the IRDA-distributed Eurogram label in 1977 at Heilicher Brothers distributors in Minneapolis, a large “X” scrawled in red Magic Marker to differentiate it from its original “William Tell Overture” A-side. If IRDA’s (International Record Distributing Associates) hope was to ride the year-old coattails of Walter Murphy’s “Fifth Of…” success, they’d failed to notice that Walter’s ship had already sunk. Undaunted, IRDA sent a second shipment of “Ninth” 45s to Heilicher’s – this time on stock labels – no doubt providing some much-needed time-and-a-half for their overworked red-“X”er back on Music Row. I actually liked the record enough to keep both a DJ and stock copy of Eurogram 5002.

    As a record label, Eurogram wasn’t exactly flooding the marketplace with releases at the time: Eurogram 5001 – a reissue of Python Lee Jackson’s “In A Broken Dream” – had been released in 1976. Not so coincidentally, it, too, had been a Miki Dallon production.

  3. Miki Dallon is behind a lot of records; I think Vic Flick was part of Apollo 100 (he of James Bond guitar session work).

    My mother was a classically trained pianist/vocalist and was not real thrilled about the “desecration” of “Jesu…” She would sing “Look what they’ve done to my song, ma,” another tune out about the same time if I recall.

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