When we 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."
Bassist Paul Samwell-Smith told NME staffer and press officer Keith Altham that he wrote this song about the destruction of the planet. He added: "I wrote it in a bar in Chicago. I just lifted part of a Dave Brubeck fugue to a marching beat. It's a sort of protest song." Jim McCarty told us: "'Shapes of Things' was very much about the state of the situation in the country with the Vietnam War, so it was sort of an anti-war song."
In 1995, 3 years after The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band reformed, eventually releasing the album of new material Birdland in 2003. Bass player Chris Dreja says of this song on their website: "I think 'Shapes of Things' is one of the finest things the band ever did. It was the first recording done at Chess in Chicago. They just nailed our sound. It's a great song to play live. When you hit that chord for the solo part, then a little pause, then you get that BANG where the solo comes in. It's just a magic moment."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
This was used in the 1989 movie Slipstream.
Drummer Jim McCarty (August 2011): "We were definitely surprised when we discovered that we could write hits without outside writers. With Jeff Beck it became very much a team effort. Some of us did some things well and some of us did other things well. We put all of those things in a pot and it just all seemed to work. I always fancied 'Shapes Of Things' as being the Yardbirds' best single. That song had all the elements. Good tune, good lyrics, good rhythm and a great guitar solo by Jeff. That song was really the band at that point."
Suggestion credit: DeeTheWriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
Kunal Somaiya from Mumbai, IndiaSomehow 'For your Love' has to be the best Yardbird Single, Shapes of things is a near second.
D. R. from Okc, OkDefinitive Yardbird stuff - I wish the footage was with all the guys that recorded it. But hey, Chris Dreja does a decent job taking over Samwell-Smith's bass duties. But woops, Jimmy seems to have a way out of tune string there - unfortunate. Jimmy was great, but Jeff was way cool.
Craig from Midpines, CaI certainly agree that Shapes Of Things is one of (if not the) greatest songs the Yardbirds ever recorded. But why on earth is it listed under this 2003 release, rather than under its original recorded version, which was released in 1966?