The Shape I'm In

The Band

About The Shape I'm In

"The Shape I'm In" is a song by The Band, first released on their 1970 album Stage Fright. It was written by Robbie Robertson, who did little to disguise the fact that the song's sense of dread and dissolution was about Richard Manuel, the song's principal singer. It became a regular feature in their concert repertoire, appearing on their live albums Rock of Ages, Before the Flood, and The Last Waltz. Author Neil Minturn described the song as "straightforward rock." Along with "The Weight," it is one of the Band's songs most performed by other artists. It has been recorded by Bo Diddley, The Good Brothers, The Mekons, The Pointer Sisters, She & Him, and Marty Stuart. It was also released as the B-side to their single "Time to Kill," and proved more popular than the hit side, recognized by Capitol Records in its promotion kit for the single. The mix used for the single is disputed, as the Band had second thoughts about the work of initial engineer Todd Rundgren, and sent the tapes to be remixed by British engineer Glyn Johns. Most likely it was the Johns mixes used for both the album and the single. The Band drummer Levon Helm has written that the song is about "desperation." Author Barney Hoskyns describes it as "a first person account of winding up on Skid Row, positing the sanctuary of rural life against the aggravation of hustling on the street." Critic Greil Marcus thought the song "set the stage for the apocryphal political drama that is woven into the fabric of Stage Fright," although he didn't think the Band ever pulled off this drama satisfactorily. Hoskyns describes the music as being "set to an insistent, crudely funky bass pulse." He describes Manuel's vocal as sounding appropriately "frantic." Minturn particularly praised Robbie Robertson's guitar playing and Garth Hudson's organ. Hoskyns points out that the end of Hudson's organ part quoted the vocal line from Bob Dylan's "I Pity the Poor Immigrant," noting that the quote may have been a coincidence, but also that it might be making a political point. Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh called "The Shape I'm In" one of the most notably fine moments of the Stage Fright album. Critic Mark Kemp called it a "highlight" of the album, further noting that it reveals "a growing sense of anxiety and cynicism" by the band." Music critic Paul Evans praised the "penetrating psychological acuity" of its writing. 


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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 living alone will 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 looking 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 just spent sixty days in the jailhouse
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 trying to shuck us
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

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The Band

The Band were a Canadian-American roots rock group that originally consisted of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, trombone, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard instruments, saxophones, trumpet), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, baritone saxophone, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals). The members of the Band first came together as they joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins's backing group, The Hawks, one by one between 1958 and 1963. more »

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Written by: Robbie Robertson

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

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