One of the most gleefully idiosyncratic bands to emerge from Britain's punk scene, the Shapes released a mere single and EP during their brief career. However, that was more than enough to capture the group's uniquely crazed pop-punk sound and place them firmly in the punk hall of fame. The brainchild of singer Seymour Bybuss and bassist Brian Helicopter, the Shapes began life in Leamington Spa, in 1977, as a duo miming goofily along to golden oldies. Apparently, this was entertaining enough to amuse the pair for the next year, although at some point they did add a few more now long-forgotten members to the group. It was in this amorphous shape that Radio One DJ John Peel first saw the Shapes perform at a party in neighboring Stratford-upon-Avon. He walked away distinctly under-impressed.
In February 1979, the new look group entered the studio to record their debut Part of the Furniture EP. The title was a bit of a joke, of course, playing off the fact that Furniture was released on the group's own Sofa label. A frenetic burst of poppy punk lunacy, the four-song EP made fans out of all but the most cynical scenesters. The highlight was definitely "Batman in the Launderette," an inspired piece of idiocy that was farcically infectious.
A repentant John Peel was converted to the Shapes' cause and his constant airplay helped push the record to number two on the indies singles chart. He also invited the group along to perform on his show, which they did on April 10, 1979. The Shapes were also sharpening their skills on both the media and the stage, where they opened for a host of upcoming groups. Equally memorable as their frenetic live shows were their bouts with the press, whom often photographed the band sprouting large, geometrically shaped boxes over their heads (this is how they appeared on the cover of their posthumous album). The actual interviews were equally surreal, and even at the time, it became difficult to separate the fact from the fiction of the band's history. There's no doubt, however, that soon after the release of Furniture, the Shapes were contacted by the Belfast label Good Vibrations, with whom Sofa struck a distribution deal. The upshot was the prescient "Airline Disaster" single, which was aptly dubbed a double B-side. The plaintive ballad about fear of flying was backed by the roaring noise of "Blast Off." Unfortunately, this time around, no one seemed to get the joke, and the single crashed and burned ignominiously; legend has it that it was the poorest selling release of 1980. The Shapes took this badly, as they were counting financially upon another hit.
The group ended their career on-stage soon after as ridiculously as they began. At the start of their gig at London's Marquee, Bybuss attempted to make a grand entrance by leaping onto the stage. Unfortunately, he misjudged his jump and landed smack in the middle of a stunned audience, who immediately crowd-surfed him out of the band room and onto Wardour Street. From there, he just kept on going and that was the end of the show, and the Shapes themselves, or so the story goes. However, the band's music continued to live on. In 1998, the Overground label released the Songs for Sensible People album, which compiled together the group's EP, single, and a clutch of previously unreleased songs.