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The Shapes at the Zephyr Lounge

Review

Readers will recollect how in 2016, Leamington's favourite punk band The Shapes reconvened from around the world to celebrate their 39th anniversary. Rather more conventionally, (not a word many reviewers  of the band have ever deployed), the band did it all again recently for their 40th.

 

On Friday 4th August 20127, a four piece version of the band (sadly guitarist Steve Richards was unable to join in due to personal commitments) played Leamington's Zephyr Lounge. All four being from the classic lineup: Seymour Bybuss (Ben Browton) on lead vocals, Brian Helicopter (Gareth Holder) on bass & backing vocals, Tim Jee on guitar & drumper (sic) Dave Gee. How many other bands with such a long story could do so I wonder? For those with an interest in how the Shapes dress, Mr Helicopter was channelling steam punk, Mr Jee was somewhere between Edward VII and 1960s Carnaby Street, Mr Gee came in a batman motif suit  & Mr Bybuss was responsible for his own Shapes dress. And I mean dress.

Support came from top Leamington troubadour Huffy & London's Monkish: both seasoned Shapesupports. Huffy played two sets either side of Monkish: his usual blend of wit, social commentary & brevity, all in all a suitable match for the headline act. A little moment of magic was when he started his final number, a cover of "Waiting for the Man" and as sundry Shapes stole onstage behind him & joined in, it mutated into a new & wonderful form.

From the start of the Shapes' set (as ever was, "Let's Go to Planet Skaro" led into "College Girls" from 1979's "Part of the Furniture" EP), the band had the audience in the palm of their hand. They came from all over, many making long trips for this comparatively rare gig. It was great to note the presence of several members of other bands which will be joining the Shapes shortly on the forthcoming "Alternative Sounds" compilation being put together by Coventry Music Museum.

 

Unsurprisingly, the songs were reworked slightly to address the absence of one guitar part, which gave Tim a number of opportunities to demonstrate his skills and also Ben's tweaking of some lyrics. Both were most successful. Sticking to those songs they had released over the years, the set passed all too quickly: even counting a seven minute plus "Blast Off!". As the band themselves point out, their playing these days is in fact superior to back in their heyday around 1980: infrequent performances & intervening large oceans and continents between their current abodes notwithstanding.

 

Will Leamington see them again? A lot of us surely hope so.

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The Shapes return for 39th anniversary

It has been quite a few weeks for legendary Leamington band The Shapes. With customary disdain for convention, they have been celebrating their 39th anniversary rather than the round number usually chosen. First port of call for the band whose members are now scattered across Britain & the US was to the town's famous Woodbine Studios where they first recorded with John Rivers in 1979 for their celebrated "Part of the Furniture" EP which came out on their own Sofa Records (you may remember such tracks as "Wot's For Lunch Mum? (Not Beans Again!)" and "(I Saw) Batman (In The Launderette)"). This time, 37 years later, they cut two songs, both live favourites, "We're Not Very Famous" and "Don't Play Tennis" with John for a forthcoming single: the first Sofa Records release for 36 years.

This kicked off a mini tour : the "We're Not Very Famous Tour" with the strapline "39 Years of Anarchy & Baked Beans", culminating in a packed & high energy gig at the Zephyr Lounge with The Bonnevilles, many of whose followers became instant fans of the band.

On the afternoon before the Leamington gig, four of the five members: Ben Browton (aka "Seymour Bybuss") their lyricist & vocalist, bassplayer Gareth Holder (aka "Brian Helicopter"), guitarist Tim Jee and drummer Dave Gee visited Coventry Music Museum for a Heritage Lottery funded "Sounding Off" question and answer session about their career with Coventry and Warwickshire's number one music historian and Museum founder, Pete Chambers. Sadly guitarist Steve Richards missed the session as his amp required fixing for the evening's performance: however he managed to visit the Museum a couple of week's later with his daughter and added his name to the rest of the band's on the Door of Fame for Coventry & Warwickshire music as well as donating some rare & unique Shapes memorabilia to the Museum.

The band talked with customary candour & humour about their career, the support John Peel gave them, being one of the very few non-Irish bands signed to Terri Hooley's legendary Good Vibrations label and how they launched the career of The Specials, whose first gig was supporting The Shapes back in October 1977. Footage of the talk (in several parts) can be found on this YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp3p63r5mq-RhKCDIlxwdZg and includes acoustic renditions of the songs "Business Calls" and the classic "(I Saw) Batman (In The Launderette)"

The photographs of The Shapes are (on the left) the famous 1979 shot taken in the alleyway through the Jephson Gardens by the late Eric Labarthe which appeared in the "New Musical Express" of March 1979 and on the cover of the band's "Songs For Sensible People" album and on the right a more recent recreation, taken by the band's Tour Manager, Julie Fenton.

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