Draggin' the Line

"Draggin' the Line" is a hit song by American rock musician Tommy James, who went solo after the Shondells disbanded in 1970. It was first released as the B side of "Church Street Soul Revival" in 1970. The song was judged to have some hit potential so they went back in the studio and added horns to the master and re-released it as an A side single in 1971. It was included on his second album, Christian of the World in 1971 on the Roulette Records label, the song was James' biggest hit as a solo artist[1] selling more than a million copies,[2] and appears as the fifth track on James' 1991 retrospective album The Solo Years (1970-81) released by Rhino.[3][4]

"Draggin' the Line"
Draggin' the Line single.jpg
Original vinyl single for "Draggin' the Line"
Single by Tommy James
from the album Christian of the World
A-side"Church Street Soul Revival" (original)
B-side"Bits & Pieces" (reissue)
ReleasedJune 1971 (1971)
Format45 rpm single
GenrePop rock
psychedelic rock
LabelRoulette Records[1]
Songwriter(s)Tommy James
Bob King
Producer(s)Tommy James
Bob King
Tommy James singles chronology
"Draggin' the Line"
"I'm Comin' Home"

Written and produced by Tommy James and Bob King, "Draggin' the Line" reached the top 40 on the U.S.'s Billboard Hot 100 chart on June 26, 1971,[1] climbed to a peak of #4 for the week of August 7, 1971,[5] and remained in the top 40 rankings for 11 weeks total.[1] The song reached even higher in Cash Box magazine's competing jukebox singles charts, attaining the #2 spot for the week of August 9, 1971.[6] "Draggin' the Line" was ranked at #54 overall for hot songs of 1971 by U.S. music industry pillar Billboard magazine.[7]

"Draggin' the Line" has been described as a "lazy psychedelic shuffle whose hypnotic feel perfectly expressed its title."[8] Asked about the meaning of the title in a 2009 interview, Tommy James said: ""Draggin' the Line" just meant working every day. Nothing really very mysterious about it."[9] However, it has been falsely speculated that the song's title and lyrics refer to cocaine use,[10] citing the title, the lyrics, Tommy James' documented drug use,[11][12] and because another Tommy James and The Shondells song, Crystal Blue Persuasion, has been previously associated with the use of speed,[10] the song’s having been described in 1979 by noted music critic Dave Marsh as "a transparent allegory about James' involvement with amphetamines. In addition, it has been widely accepted that the song could more specifically refer to the tedious job of setting up power lines back in the early 1950s and 1960s. This view has gained a large amount of support, especially since the lyrics are commonly interchanged with 'Checkin the line''"[13]

Media appearancesEdit

"Draggin' the Line" has made many media appearances. Among others, in a cover by Beat Goes Bang in the 1991 film Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead; as the opener in a 1999 Canadian film New Waterford Girl; in a cover by R.E.M. in 1999 for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack;[14] in Inside Deep Throat, a 2005 documentary about the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat;[15] is heard in the sombre 2006 football drama We are Marshall,[16] in the My Name is Earl episode, "Robbed a Stoner Blind",[17] in CBS's crime drama Cold Case (episode 54),[15] and was featured in "Anthem," a familiar Mitsubishi commercial that debuted in October 2004. The commercial shows a long line of cars and sport utility vehicles cruising past Mitsubishi mechanics all dressed in red coveralls.[18]


In 2000, Tommy James and the Shondells reprised twelve of their most famous songs at the well known Greenwich Village nightclub, The Bitter End. Although technically a solo hit for Tommy James, the band performed "Draggin' the Line". Other hits featured included "Crimson & Clover", "I Think We're Alone Now", "Hanky Panky", "Mony Mony", and "Crystal Blue Persuasion". The live set was filmed and made into the 2000 movie, Tommy James & the Shondells: Live! At the Bitter End.[19]

A looping sample of the main rhythm section of "Draggin' the Line" is used as the background for Book Of Love's "Turn the World", from their 1991 album Candy Carol. The song also features brief snippets (recreated) of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

In 1998 The Roulette Story was released featuring "Draggin' the Line" as one of 84 tracks celebrating Roulette Records' notable 20-year music history (the label had closed its doors in 1977).[20] In various versions, "Draggin' the Line" has appeared on at least 41 studio albums, including covers by AC-Rock, Rusty Bryant, Crosswind Band, Barry Hay, R.E.M., The Squirrels, Vintage Buzz, The Wild Ones and Steve Wynn.[21]

Chart performanceEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Whitburn, Joel (2004). Michelle Bredeson (ed.). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (see page 12 for an explanation of the chart data categories) (8th ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 315. ISBN 0-8230-7499-4. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  2. ^ Rees, Dafydd; Luke Crampton (1991). Rock Movers & Shakers. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 268. ISBN 0-87436-661-5. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  3. ^ "Draggin' The Line (Single Version)". MusicBrainz. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  4. ^ "The Solo Years (1970-81)". MusicBrainz. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  5. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present. New York: Billboard Books. p. 297. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  6. ^ "Disc Jockey Special". The Virgin Island Daily News. August 9, 1971. p. 15. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  7. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits. New York: Watson-Guptill. p. 308. ISBN 0-8230-7738-1. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  8. ^ Breithaup, Don; Jeff Breithaup (1996). Precious and Few: Pop Music in the Early Seventies. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 12. ISBN 0-312-14704-X. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  9. ^ Ortega, Shawna Hansen (September 15, 2009). "Tommy James: Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Kemper, Wolf-Reinhard (2001). Kokain in der Musik. Berlin-Hamburg-Münster: LIT Verlag. p. 149. ISBN 3-8258-5316-0.
  11. ^ George-Warren, Holly; Patricia Romanowski; Patricia Romanowski Bashe; Jon Pareles (2001). The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Fireside. p. 483. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5.
  12. ^ "Arts Day a Guide to What's New". Dallas Morning News. September 26, 1991. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  13. ^ Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (1979). The Rolling Stone Record Guide. Random House. ISBN 0-394-41096-3.
  14. ^ Boldman, Gina. "Review: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me". Allmusic. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  15. ^ a b "Tommy James Filmography". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  16. ^ Majeed, Omar (December 21, 2006). "Holiday Roundup: We Are Marshall". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on August 15, 2008. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  17. ^ "My Name Is Earl: Robbed a Stoner Blind". TV.com. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
  18. ^ Hakim, Danny (October 12, 2004). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; A beleaguered Mitsubishi decides that a campaign stressing its warranties is the way to sell its cars". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  19. ^ Deming, Mark. "Tommy James & the Shondells: Live! At the Bitter End (2000)". The New York Times. All Movie Guide. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  20. ^ "The Roulette Story Album Review". Billboard. Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  21. ^ "Draggin' the Line". Allmusic. Archived from the original on June 3, 2009. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  22. ^ a b "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  23. ^ [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2002]
  24. ^ "Tommy James • Top Songs as Writer • Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Musicvf.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  25. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 8/21/71". Tropicalglen.com. August 21, 1971. Retrieved October 3, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  27. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  28. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1971". Tropicalglen.com. December 25, 1971. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

External linksEdit