Formed: Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, UK
The Shapes were a humourous pop punk band with a penchant for silly lyrics, silly pseudonyms (Seymour Bybuss and Brian Helicopter for instance) and short, catchy songs about everyday subjects, a far cry from the doomy Banshees or the angry Sex Pistols. They sprang up at roughly the same time as the not dissimilar Notsensibles and released two cracking singles before splintering without much fanfare long after anyone was paying them any attention. They had an off-kilter image, too, and as can be seen by evidence on this page they incorporated shapes into their clothes and even sported foam shapes over the heads. I like this band a lot.
Formed in 1977 by vocalist Seymour Bybuss and bassist Brian Helicopter after both had been expelled from school, their initial lineup consisted of two guitarists (Nigel Greenway and Nick Hadley) and a drummer Charlie Pullen). According to Wikipedia they had been offered a contract with EMI, but the label insisted on a name change (The Rackets) and even hired a songwriter for them, Nick Brind of Joe Public, "but this relationship broke down after Brind insisted on singing on the resulting tracks".
Their first single was the wonderful Wot's For Lunch Mum? EP, released by Sofa Records (catchphrase: "Part Of The Furniture") and played several times by John Peel, who liked them enough to invite them down to Maida Vale for a Peel Session. By this time the Bybuss and Helicopter had been joined by new members Dave Gee (drums), Steve Richards (guitar) and Tim Jee (also on guitar). (Dave and Tim were not related, by the way.)
Their second (and last) single Blast Off was released a collaborative effort by Sofa and Good Vibrations, making it one of that label's few releases by a band not based in Northern Ireland. Hooley also secured a support slot for them (headliners: The Saints) at the Royal Ulster Hall in Belfast, by which time the group had been reduced to a quartet with the departure of Richards. In 1980 they repaired to the studio and recorded three more songs, 'Let's Go To Planet Skaro', 'My House Is A Satellite' and 'Jennifer The Conifer', for a proposed Good Vibrations EP, but this never happened and so all three stayed in the can until the release of the retrospective CD Songs For Sensible People.
Following the group's dissolution in 1981, Jee joined The Captain Black Solution, Holder played with Rogue Male and Hells Belles before moving to California to work as a professional skydiver, Gee ran a recruitment agency in Northampton, and Richards became a horse breeder! Bybuss' career was no less strange, making several hilarious appearances on Eurotrash as transvestite nun called Sister Bendy. He then formed a new band, The Ambassadors of Plush, and in 2012 helped organise the first Trash Cannes Festival. Less amusing was the end that met Nigel Greenway, who ultimately committed suicide.
Songs For Sensible People, issued by by Overground Records nearly 20 years after the band had split, is a an excellent compilation that contains both sides of each single, a clutch of unreleased recordings and some interview snatches. It helped renew interest in the band to such an extent that a mere decade later, in mid-2008, The Shapes reform with their original line-up for a UK tour supporting other The Damned, UK Subs and other ancient punk bands, although no new recordings have been issued (probably for the best).More reissues followed: a Spanish label called Paramecium Records re-pressed the two singles in very limited runs, and Overground Records re-packaged some of the songs from 'Songs For Sensible People' on vinyl as More Songs For Sensible People. The subsequent "You'll Do Yourself a Mischief" was captured as a 20minute documentary called A Film For Sensible People. Oh, and two new recordings have been mooted for 2015: 'We're Not Very Famous' and 'Don't Play Tennis'.
Singles / Albums
|Wot's For Lunch Mum?
|Blast Off (7", 1980)|
|Songs For Sensible People (CD, 1998)||More Songs For Sensible People (LP, 2014)|