When Songfacts spoke with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty
, we asked him about writing a hit song. He replied: "That's probably the hardest thing to try and do. Every time we tried to do that it never really succeeded. I suppose we were lucky in that when we did 'Shapes of Things' it was like a hit song, but we were really coming from not trying to create a sort of a 3-minute piece of music, it was just something that seemed natural to us. We started with the rhythm, we used a bass riff that came from a jazz record, got a groove going with that and then added a few other bits from elsewhere, other ideas that we'd had. And I think it was a great success for us, it was a good hit record that wasn't really selling out. And it was original."
Explaining how they composed the song, McCarty added: "With 'The Shapes of Things' I came up with a marching type of rhythm that I tried to make interesting. And at the end of each line we'd build up like we used to do with some of our stage stuff - the rave ups. And then the bass riff came on top of that. And the bass riff was loosely based on a Dave Brubeck song, sort of a jazz song, around a doo doo doo doo doo doo, and then the chords came over that. The chords were very basic, came between the two tones, I think G and F, and then resolving it in D, each verse. And then the tune came on top of that. In fact, I remember putting the backing track down, which sounded great. I wasn't at the session where Keith made up the tune, and when I heard the tune, I thought, Oh, that's great. It's a real surprise. He made up the tune, and then we had this sort of 'Come tomorrow,' but that was part of the song, anyway, at the beginning. So it was an exciting song to be involved in."