Draggin' The Line

Album: Greatest Hits (1971)
Charted: 4


  • In our interview with Tommy James, he explained: "'Draggin' The Line' I wrote up at my farm in 1970, and it was with Bob King. My farm was in upstate New York, I had a couple hundred acres. It was a song I probably couldn't have written in the city. We just kind of toyed with it. We wrote it, and it was a very repetitious track, and a very sort of hypnotic track. We had the track before we had the song. We went into the studio and just laid down, I don't know, eight or ten bars of track. We looped it and looped it and looped it, and created the hypnotic rhythm. Bob played bass, Russ Leslie from Neon played drums, and I played guitar. And so we just created loops of tape based on this little riff, and when we had three-plus minutes of it put together we stopped, and then we wrote the song around the track. Second time I had ever done that - first one was "Mony" actually. 'Draggin' the Line' just meant working every day. Nothing really very mysterious about it."

    So how did he come up with title? Says James: "It's almost like the bass guitar was speaking. And it just seemed to say 'draggin' the line' to me. It's weird. But we had the track before we had the song, and it was like the bass was speaking."
  • This song helped create a new phrase, as James explains: "The line of 'hugging a tree' in there became kind of a slang expression for people who are interested in the ecology. 'Tree Hugger' came from that song."
  • Regarding the lyrics, "My dog Sam eats purple flowers," James says: "I did have a cat named Sam - not a dog named Sam. He was a white Persian cat. That was just finding words that fit together (laughing) on a very mellow night, if you get my drift."
  • Like many famous songs, this was not considered a hit at first. Says James: "The interesting thing about 'Draggin' the Line' is it was originally the B-side, it was the flip-side of a record called 'Church Street Soul Revival' that I had out in 1970. And we put the record out, and the B-side got as much airplay as the A-side, and then finally more airplay. And so we could tell that radio wanted to go with 'Draggin' The Line.' So we went into the studio and threw horns on it, and remixed it with more emphasis on the groove, and re-released it then as an A-side in 1971, and it went #1."
  • No Shonells on this one - the group broke up in 1970 and Tommy James continued to record as a solo artist.

Comments: 4

  • Melsh from Chapel Hill, NcThe song is about an outdoor job putting up electric power lines, which in the 50's-60's was also called "checking the line." It's simply about having a job outdoors and how much the singer enjoys not being tied to a desk, pushing paper and answering phone calls. In a 2009 interview, Tommy James said: “ 'Draggin’ the Line' just meant working every day. Nothing really very mysterious about it.” Tommy knows what the lyrics meant, and for some reason he is being cryptic about it. Anyway, mine is the final word on the subject, and it's true.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenSo on that "mellow night," he probably wasn't draggin' a line, but I bet he was smoking something.
  • Ed from Canton, OhI always thought this song was about snorting cocaine. I am glad I was wrong.
  • Tim from Columbia, ScOne of the first songs I remember growing up listening to WLS. That bass line sounded so great on AM radio and the reverb was outstanding as well!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"They're Playing My Song

Shears does very little promotion, which has kept him secluded from the spotlight. What changed when Cyndi Lauper had a hit with his song? Not much, really.

dUg Pinnick of King's XSongwriter Interviews

dUg dIgs into his King's X metal classics and his many side projects, including the one with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam.

Motley CrueFact or Fiction

Was Dr. Feelgood a dentist? Did the "Crüecifixion" really happen?

Emmylou HarrisSongwriter Interviews

She thinks of herself as a "song interpreter," but back in the '80s another country star convinced Emmylou to take a crack at songwriting.

Kim Thayil of SoundgardenSongwriter Interviews

Their frontman (Chris Cornell) started out as their drummer, so Soundgarden takes a linear approach when it comes to songwriting. Kim explains how they do it.

Rosanne CashSongwriter Interviews

Rosanne talks about the journey that inspired her songs on her album The River & the Thread, including a stop at the Tallahatchie Bridge.