Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tommy James -- "Draggin' The Line" (1971)

Through the latter half of the 60's, Tommy James & The Shondells evolved from a prototypical garage rock with bubblegum band ("Hanky Panky," "Mony Mony") to a flat out psychedelic bubblegum band ("Crimson & Clover," "Crystal Blue Persuasion").

Then Tommy James dropped the Shondells and decided to make what would now be called Christian rock and basically nearly committed career suicide... except for this one single that landed on his Christian Of The World album.

Sounding like it made no difference that the Shondells left, "Draggin' The Line" continued James' uncanny knack for spaced out lyrics packaged in short irresistible three-minute pop songs.

This song had so many good things going for it in all its simplicity, it would be nearly impossible for it to not be a hit. Take out your perfect 45 checklist and so many items you can mark off:

  • Ridiculously catchy bass line played nearly throughout the whole song.
  • Equally catchy verses and chorus.
  • Three or four chords, tops.
  • Chugging guitar and the rigidly-played 4/4 drums.
  • Simple horn arrangement emphasizing the melody during the break ("I feel fine, I'm talking about peace of mind, I'm going to take my time, I'm getting to good times...").
  • Bass voice echoing the song title, followed by two syncopated horn pops.
  • The cool 8th-note snare drum part that transitions out of the break.
Was James high on a drug called "life" or something else when he wrote the following verse:

My dog Sam eats purple flowers,
We ain't got much, but we got ours,
Digging the snow and the rain and bright sunshine,
Draggin' the line (draggin' the line)

Or what was he thinking when writing these lines:

Lovin' a free and feelin' spirit,
Huggin' a tree when you get near it.

I guess he could have used the words to the National Anthem, because the music itself was so good, the words nearly didn't matter.

R.E.M. did a decent cover of "Draggin' The Line" on the soundtrack to "Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

No real good live videos around from this song, but here's a nice "Draggin' The Line" montage that serves as a tribute to Tommy James...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Draggin' The Line is a great song, for all the reasons you listed! Tommy James is the best! Dale Smith, Lebanon, IN