Shapes of Things

Shapes of Things (The Yardbirds, 1966).
Shapes of Things (Bowie).

The Yardbirds’ “Shapes Of Things” is young men’s wisdom wrapped in young men’s ambition. The former is, no surprise, awkwardly phrased and ponderous; the ambition is still impressive, 45 years on. The Yardbirds had used outside songwriters for all of their singles until “Shapes of Things,” which they cut at the end of 1965. The track was designed, much like the Who’s “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” as a piece of sonic adventurism, the expedition led by Jeff Beck and the band’s underrated bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. Beck bided his time until the rave-up, where he made his fuzz-toned guitar sound like a distorted electric violin, while he brutally ended the track with staggered bursts of feedback.

The likes of “Shapes of Things” created an atmosphere in which Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane could breathe. So Bowie pays his respects, not by trying to match Rod Stewart (who sang it with the Jeff Beck Group in 1968) in power, but by singing the verses like an East End drag queen doing Judy Garland. It’s pure mockery, a sci-fi goof, or else Bowie’s taking the lyric way too seriously. It’s a failure by any reading. Ronson gives one of his better solos on the record as amends, or at least as a distraction.

Recorded July-early August 1973.

Top: “Normko,” “London, Oxford Street, 1973.”

3 Responses to Shapes of Things

  1. diamonddog says:

    I think its a good cover bowie swaggers through all these covers and in my opinion freshens and fleshs out the fairly peadestrian originals. Like many bowie fans the originals had not been heard till years later and the dull originals were a complete disappointment. Bowie and band stomp on the original.

  2. Sparkeyes says:

    I like it. It’s like The Supermen’s un-identical twin.

  3. I like it. Ventures a bit into prog territory. Which is good IMHO.

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