This is the Yardbirds Jeff Beck edition. Great song that peaked at #11 in the Billboard 100, #3 in the UK and #7 in Canada in 1966. Beck’s guitar solo in this song is fantastic as he uses sustain, distortion. and some eastern influence. This was shortly before Jimmy Page joined the group.
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.”
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.”
Shapes of Things
Shapes of things before my eyes,
Just teach me to despise.
Will time make men more wise?
Here within my lonely frame,
my eyes just heard my brain.
But will it seem the same?
(Come Tomorrow) Will I be older?
(Come Tomorrow) May be a soldier.
(Come Tomorrow) May I be bolder than today?
Now the trees are almost green.
But will they still be seen?
When time and tide have been.
Fall into your passing hands.
Please don’t destroy these lands.
Don’t make them desert sands.
Soon I hope that I will find,
Thoughts deep within my mind.
That won’t displace my kind.