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The Shape I'm In (The Band song)

"The Shape I'm In"
File:Time to Kill The Shape I'm In cover.jpg
Spanish cover
Single by The Band
A-side "Time to Kill"
Released October 1970
Format 45'
Recorded May to June, 1970
Bearsville Studios
Woodstock, New York
Genre Roots rock
Length 3:24
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Robbie Robertson
Producer(s) The Band

"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.[1] 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."[2] Along with "The Weight," it is one of the Band's songs most performed by other artists.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

The Band drummer Levon Helm has written that the song is about "desperation."[6] 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."[5] 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.[5]

Hoskyns describes the music as being "set to an insistent, crudely funky bass pulse."[5] He describes Manuel's vocal as sounding appropriately "frantic."[5] Minturn particularly praised Robbie Robertson's guitar playing and Garth Hudson's organ.[2] 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.[5]

Rolling Stone Magazine critic Dave Marsh called "The Shape I'm In" one of the most notably fine moments of the Stage Fright album.[7] 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."[8] Music critic Paul Evans praised the "penetrating psychological acuity" of its writing.[9]

Chart performance

Chart (1971) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[10] 62


  1. ^ Hoskyns, Barney. Rejected liner notes for 2000 Band remasters, retrieved 19-11-10
  2. ^ a b Minturn, N. (2005). The Last Waltz of the Band. Pendragon Press. pp. 34, 127, 144. ISBN 9781576470930. 
  3. ^ Lewis, D.L. The Band website, retrieved 19-11-10
  4. ^ Promotional poster by Capitol Records, retrieved 19-11-10
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hoskyns, B. (2006). Across the Great Divide. Hal Leonard. pp. 240–244. ISBN 9781423414421. 
  6. ^ Helm, L. & Davis, R. (2013). This Wheel's on Fire – Levon Helm and the Story of The Band. Chicago University Press. pp. 216–217. ISBN 9781613748763. 
  7. ^ Marsh, D, (1983). Marsh, D. & Swenson, J., ed. The Rolling Stone Album Guide<span /> (2nd ed.). Rolling Stone Press. p. 26. ISBN 0394721071. 
  8. ^ Kemp, M. (2004). Brackett, N. & Hoard, C., ed. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside. p. 42. ISBN 0743201698. 
  9. ^ Evans, P. (1992). DeCurtis, A., Henke, J. & George-Warren, H., ed. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Straight Arrow Publications. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0679737294. 
  10. ^ Canadian RPM peak

External links

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