Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Discovered 70s gems 2: Tommy James - Draggin' the line

Part two in a list of obscure pop singles from the early 70s.  The chief criteria are personal: I really like them now, but never heard them at the time.

The countdown rolls on:

1.  Dusk (US) - Treat me like a good piece of candy (1971, Bell records)

2.  Tommy James (US) - Draggin' the line (1971, Roulette)
3. Chi-Lites (US) - A letter to myself (1973, Brunswick)

James' heyday was the 1960s, when Tommy James and the Shondells hit the top in the US a couple of times (Hanky Panky and Crimson and Clover); a number of their songs were successfully covered decades later.

But James had a later, fitful, solo career, and Draggin' the line was his biggest.  Catchy but heavy, so-called psychedelic, with a thumping bass riff and a languid vocal delivery.  It's hard not to enjoy it.

Dave Clark - who also went solo (from the Dave Clark Five) - was so impressed he covered this song a few months later, fairly faithfully but hardly as effective.  Surprisingly, in my research I found that REM, too, loved it enough to cover it - for an Austin Powers soundtrack.  The links all take you to the respective renditions on youtube, which demonstrate that everyone's clearly thinking: don't mess up a good thing.

Tommy James' solo singles discography for the 70s (all on Roulette)
  • 1970 Ball And Chain/Candy Maker (R-7084)
  • 1970 Church Street Soul Revival/Draggin' The Line (R-7093; US#62, Wellington,NZ#24 (hit prediction))
  • 1971 Adrienne/Light Of Day (R-7100; US#93)
  • 1971 Draggin' The Line/Bits & Pieces (R-7103; US#4, Aus#20; NZ#19)
  • 1971 I'm Comin' Home/Sing, Sing, Sing (R-7110; US#40 Wgtn#30)
  • 1971 Nothing To Hide/Walk A Country Mile (R-7114; US#41, Wgtn#36)
  • 1972 Tell 'Em Willie Boy's A'Comin'/Forty Days And Forty Nights (R-7119; US#89, Wgtn#54)
  • 1972 Cat's Eye In The Window/Dark Is The Night (R-7126; US#90)
  • 1972 Love Song/Kingston Highway    (R-7130; US#67)
  • 1972 Celebration/The Last One To Know (R-7135; US#95)
  • 1973 Boo, Boo, Don't 'Cha Be Blue/Rings And Things    Roulette (R-7140; US#70, Wgtn#23)
  • 1973 Calico/Hey, My Lady    (R-7147)

- Wikipedia on Tommy James
- Music VF on Tommy James and the Shondells
- Stephen Laug-something-or-other's web page on Tommy James
- Various chart sources including Joel Whitburn and David Kent.

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