“Draggin’ the Line”
Is a hit song by American rock musician Tommy James who went solo after brake up in 1970.
Released as a single in 1971 on the Roulette Records label, the song was James’ biggest hit as a solo artist selling more than a million copies, and appears as the fifth track on James’ 1991 retrospective album The Solo Years (1970-81) released by Rhino. 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, climbed to a peak of #4 for the week of August 7, 1971, and remained in the top 40 rankings for 11 weeks total.
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. Draggin’ the Line was ranked at #44 overall for hot songs of 1971 by U.S. music industry pillar Billboard magazine.
“Draggin’ the Line” has been described as a “lazy psychedelic shuffle whose hypnotic feel perfectly expressed its title” Exactly what the song is about is not clear. It has been speculated that the song’s title and lyrics refer to cocaine use, sighting to the title, the lyrics, Tommy James’ well documented drug use, and because another Tommy James and The Shondell’s song, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” has been previously associated with the use of speed, the song having been described in 1979 by noted music critic Dave Marsh as “a transparent allegory about James’ involvement with amphetamines.”
“Draggin’ the Line” has made many media appearances. Among others, in the 1991 film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead; in a cover by R.E.M. in 1999 for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack; in Inside Deep Throat, a 2005 documentary about the 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat; is heard in the somber 2006 football drama We are Marshall in the My Name is Earl episode, Robbed a Stoner Blind, in CBS’s crime drama Cold Cases, (episode 54) 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. In 2000, Tommy James and the Shondells reprised 12 of their most famous songs at the well-known Greenwich Village nightclub, The Bitter End.
Though technically a solo hit for Tommy James, the band played “Draggin’ the Line” as one of the twelve songs featured. Other hits played included “Crimson & Clover”, “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Hanky Panky”, “Mony Mony”, and “Crystal Blue Persuasion”. The live set was filmed and was made into the 2000 movie, Tommy James & the Shondells: Live! At the Bitter End. 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).
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.