Interpretations:On The Drag

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I realize this is probably just my own association, but I keep thinking that this song is making fun of poets, because St. Mark's Place always makes me think of The Poetry Project. --Nyquil Poet

On the download site, they say "the very grown-up On The Drag was recorded after-hours during the No! sessions..." Here's my question, though: what about this song makes it so grown-up? I don't know what the phrase, "on the drag" means. Maybe this is the key to why I am confused. --FireLily

I think they said the song was "very grown-up", because if it was recorded during the No! sessions, people might think that the song would be a cheery happy kids' tune like the rest on No! I have no clue what "on the drag" means either. -magbatz

This song is mostly about drag racing. If the title doesn't tell you right away, there's clues in the lyrics. A top-fueler is a type of drag racing car, the fastest kind (it's also the fastest accelerating vehicle on Earth). Since drag racing tracks are so short, slowing down really fast is as important as accelerating really fast, so drag racers will use parachutes.

The part about St. Mark's Place is probably different. There was a place on 2nd Avenue in New York called St. Mark's Place. Google reveals:

The '60s brought throngs of creatively-costumed hippies. Head shops proliferated and Tompkins Square Park became the east coast center for smoke-ins and outdoor rock concerts. Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg lived nearby and roamed the neighborhood, spreading revolution and love.
During 70's the Saint Mark's movie house on the corner of Second Avenue showed great films for about $2 and the few "straight" people in the audience would get high inhaling their neighbor's smoke. Above the movie house, the Negro Ensemble Theater provided wonderful and provocative drama. Today the movie house is a GAP, and the theater is a video store.

With that I suppose someone is racing towards 2nd Avenue from 1st Avenue mentioned in the beginning of the song. The singer is going from 1st to "A," which I assume stands for what you come across by moving away from 2nd Avenue, the Atlantic Ocean. So now a theme has developed from a song about drag racing: separation and resentment. - sheep

There are Avenues A, B, C, and D in parts of the East Side of Manhattan, east of 1st Avenue. You'd go from 1st Avenue to A by walking one block east.

To me it sounds as if much of the song is just about hanging out aimlessly on the street, that is, "the drag", in various places in Manhattan: "waiting 'round for something, and it's never coming back". The drag-racing references then serve as an ironic contrast with this completely inactive activity. -- 22:22, 26 Sep 2004 (EDT)

I'm not sure what the song's about, but I like it.

The opening lines ("'I won't die until I'm dead'...'Cause he's never gonna stop") sound to me like a reference to the guy in "Till My Head Falls Off"...which would make sense if this song was first recorded during the Factory Showroom sessions. --sinisterscrawl 18:48, 7 Mar 2005 (EST)

On the drag in reference to a city is usually a specific street, generally where all the bars and clubs are. Every city has one, and not all call it 'the drag,' but that's what 'driving the drag' or 'walking the drag' means. That's always what I got out of the song... clubbing, pub-crawling, life downtown. The Drag is usually the bustling street located near a university.

On the Drag might mean the drudgery of city life, where you must always have a map in your head if you want to go somewhere. It is very tiring to go around the city if you are walking, so he's just dragging along, hoping to get somewhere. The city kind of sucks since it is too broad.

-King of Hearts

My understanding of On the Drag is that it is about someone being high. A drag is another word for marijuana that was used in the 60's-80's. If anyone has heard the song Mr. Brightside by The Killers they reference a drag in that song as well. Now I've been around a few high people in my life and I can tell you that they never stop talking "Cause he's never gonna stop". Think about the song, "The sun is getting still with all this time to kill" could be a reference to the "time has stopped or slowed down" feeling recieved when under the influence. My views could be wrong but the song does have that slow down toward the end. Squeak

The song aparently has two views, the drag racer guy who says "I won't die until I'm dead" and this other girl

You're only happy when you're sad You're top-fueled and you're bad Your parachute in your backpack And your knees under your chin

And your boyfriend's getting mad With all this time you waste Trying to put the finger on it The allure of St. Mark's Place

The girl appears to be a drag racer too, who has a non-drag racing boyfriend

The girl could be a gay guy

I've lived in and around NYC for the last 13 years, and my spin on this song is closely related to that. Something tells me this might be really close to the mark of Flansburgh's inspiration. St. Mark's Place is a street in the East Village that's kind of been the iconic hipster hang-out spot for 30 years or so, if we can grossly generalize it. Starting at 3rd Avenue/Bowery and extending toward the East River through Alphabet City, it's jam-packed with tat parlors, head shops, falafel joints, used record stores and dive bars. For years, this place was the mecca of all things hip and punk and rebellious. The Giants played on and around this strip throughout their formative days, so this area probably greatly impacted their NYC experience.

Something's happened, though. Now, on either side of a head shop, you've got a Chipotle and a Gap Kids. The record stores are shutting down and getting replaced with tourist novelty shops. You can't buy grass around there anymore, but you can get enough pot-leaf t-shirts to clothe an army. The bars are becoming trendy after-work watering holes, and the whole scene is generally far too conscious of itself to be true anymore. So I think what this song communicates, and very well, is how something about this strip has died, and "we're all waiting 'round for something, and it's never coming back." There's still this draw of St. Mark's, largely because of how thrilling it was in youth, but when you go there now, it just feels sterilized. You still see the standard punk-rock, leather-studded, face-pierced character down there, but they're getting slowly outnumbered by the trust-fund kids.

The song might be about more specifics than that, but I think this is at least the backdrop of the song's story. To be honest, I'm younger than TMBG by about a decade and a half, so the East Village they remember is certainly further bygone than mine. They likely thought it was long gone by the time I got here, so they can only look at it now and be truly devastated. That's why I think Flansy described it as "very adult"; he likely meant that it was speaking to a very specific adult generation. -- Charlie

Definitely Incorrect[edit]

"On The Drag" is "very grown-up" as FireLily mentioned because it's about a very uncomfortable, adult subject. The song is being sung by a man to his female sexual partner, and the "he" in the song is menopause. They are having difficulties managing the changes to their sex lives that comes with the woman's menopause. "On the rag" with no D is slang for "wearing a sanitary napkin due to menstruation." "On the Drag" by extension refers to what a drag it is when menopause hits, and the bleeding becomes unpredictable rather than regular and monthly, and the associated reduction in sex drive associated with the menstrual cycle becomes more or less permanent. She's afraid of what's happening to her body ("parachute in your backpack and your knees under your chin") and despite the fact that the man is "trying to put the finger (penis) on it", it's just not happening. -- 16:01, 1 February 2013 (EST)