I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
What hijacked my world that night
To a place in the past
We've been cast out of? Oh oh oh oh
Now we're back in the fight
We're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

A circumstance beyond our control, oh oh oh oh
The phone, the TV and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell, oh oh oh oh
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang

The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they've done to you
But I'll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They'll fall to ruin one day
For making us part

I found a picture of you, oh oh oh oh
Those were the happiest days of my life
Like a break in the battle was your part, oh oh oh oh
In the wretched life of a lonely heart
Now we're back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang



Lyrics submitted by numb

"Back On the Chain Gang" as written by Chrissie Hynde

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Back On The Chain Gang song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +3
    General Comment:The powers that be
    that force us to live like we do
    bring me to my knees
    when I see what they've done to you.

    But I'll die as I stand her today
    knowing that deep in my heart
    they'll fall to ruin one day
    for making us apart.


    Exceptional lyrics. Beautiful song.
    Ratman_84on September 27, 2008   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning:Chrissie Hynde has, in the past, commented on the lyrics of this beautiful song, which indeed expressed her feelings about the death of the great James Honeyman-Scott. She was profoundly affected by the loss and mightily pissed at how his death was sensationalized by the rags as just another rockstar drug overdose. Thankfully, JHS's legacy lives on, and he remains one of the most underrated guitarists in history, right next to Terry Kath, Danny Gatton, Maury Muehleisen and too many others to mention.
    GenevaSlimon June 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:I heard she wrote it after the overdose of her guitar player Honeyman-Scott...Can't remember all of it.
    This song was their come back after that,cos they lost two key original members to overdosing before this.
    Thia007on November 10, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:This is Hynde's tribute to James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist who died of a drug overdose in 1982. Scott's death was followed by bass player Pete Farndon's 10 months later.
    TumblingDiceon December 31, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:For me, this is one of those songs that reminds me of being a kid. My mother had the record and used to play it all the time and try to get me to dance with her in the living room. This song came out on their "Learning to Crawl" album in 1984. So, I would have been around 4 or 5 then.

    Anyway... Seems to me that the narrator is lamenting about the lack of freedom in her life or at least inability to do what it is that makes her happy. She's caught up in the drudgery life. And there's realization that most of the expectations/dreams she had for herself aren't panning out.

    She’s felt this way for a while. But... In the past there was a special person that invigorated her. During the height of their passion she felt truly happy and, for a time, anything seemed possible - a renewed sense of freedom.

    But, this could not be sustained. The romance didn’t last and, eventually, when the intensity/passion gave way she found herself again a slave to the unexciting/undesired realities of her life. Also, sounds like she believes her lover’s dreams were compromised as well and this is even more disheartening because she thought that person (her inspiration) could not be defeated.

    Now that time has passed, when she looks back a picture of her past lover it brings back feelings – pureness and optimism. She wants to and is fighting to get back to that place again.
    casper5581on February 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:I imagine that Chrissie wrote this song when she saw a photo of an old lover. It reminds her of how happy things seemed back in those days and how the rat race has driven them apart and forced them apart.

    I always thought that the line was "Conformity and the the news of the world" not "The phone, the TV and the news of the world." The true lyrics make more sense.
    stoolhardyon January 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:To me it sounds like a song that describes how Chrissie is fighting for freedom, possibly along someone's side. Freedom for all beings, all life and while she was fighting she got trapped and now she's being held captured.
    Not_1on July 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:I think the narrator has found a picture of herself and is lamenting her lost youth.
    aczinkeon August 21, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:The picture she refers to is of Ray Davies of The Kinks (they had been together years before) but the song was changed after the death of Scott.
    kfe2on February 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:Definitely a boyfriend back in her younger days. That first 'love' and first everything boyfriend... This song just makes me feel love all over.
    courtzaaaon April 13, 2007   Link

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