The Band – The Shape I’m In

The first Band album I ever bought was The Best of The Band. When I heard “The Shape I’m In” I knew I was going to like them. I knew the hits of course but the songs I never heard of at that point were great. I then started to buy their albums and loving this band. The song was off on the album Stage Fright and was a B side to the song “Time To Kill.”

There is a great version on The Last Waltz which is below. Robbie wrote the song for Richard to sing and at that time Levon, Rick, and Richard were heavy into heroin and drinking. The song peaked at #64 in Canada.

Robbie Robertson talks some about writing this song

At one time, there was talk that if you wanted to play like the angels, you had to dance with the devil—that heroin was a gateway to music supremacy. That myth was yesterday, but the power of addiction was still in full force. It hit me hard that in a band like ours, if we weren’t operating on all cylinders, it threw the whole machine off course.
This was the first time that writing songs was painful for me. In some cases I couldn’t help but reflect on what was happening behind the curtain. I wrote “The Shape I’m In” for Richard to sing, “Stage Fright” for Rick, and “The W. S. Walcott Medicine Show” for Levon—all with undertones of madness and self-destruction. While watching Richard pound out the rhythm on the clavichord, I couldn’t help but see the irony as he sang out, “Oh, you don’t know, the shape I’m in.”

The Shape I’m In

Go out yonder, peace in the valley
Come downtown, have to rumble in the alley
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in

Has anybody seen my lady
This livin’ alone would drive me crazy
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in

I’m gonna go down by the water
But I ain’t gonna jump in, no, no
I’ll just be lookin’ for my maker
And I hear that that’s where she’s been?

Oh, out of nine lives, I spent seven
Now, how in the world do you get to Heaven
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in

I’ve just spent 60 days in the jail house
For the crime of having no dough, no no
Now here I am back out on the street
For the crime of having nowhere to go

Save your neck or save your brother
Looks like it’s one or the other
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in

Now two young kids might start a ruckus
You know they feel you’re tryin’ to shuck us
Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

14 thoughts on “The Band – The Shape I’m In”

  1. Great track, I didn’t know the story behind it though. How sad! Odd that it was a b-side…when I was growing up in the 70s the Toronto station I listened to played it a great deal but I don’t recall ever hearing the A-side (Time to Kill) on air

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great song. My husband is reading the Robbie Robertson book now… and all the drama that went into making this film, including the feud between him an Levon – don’t think they ever mended their ways before Levon died.

    eden

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a great book it is… it’s one of the best rock autobiographies I’ve read.
      He went to the hospital where Levon was but he doesn’t say a lot about it. It’s a shame things got that way.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I never know those 3 were on the H but Robbie was clean. Guessing Garth was also clean. I just remember that look when he was being interviewed and said something like he wouldn’t entertain the thought of continuing to tour (paraphrase). That look on his face….

    Liked by 1 person

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