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Back On The Chain Gang Lyrics

I found a picture of you oh
what hijacked my world that night
to a place in the past
we've been cast out of oh
now we're back in the fight
we're back on the train yeah oh.

A circumstance beyond our control oh
the phone, t.v. and the news of the world
got in the house like a pigeon from hell oh
threw sand in your eyes and descended like flies
put us back on the train yeah 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 her today
knowing that deep in my heart
they'll fall to ruin one day
for making us apart.

I found a picture of you oh
those were the happiest days of my life
now we're back on the train
oh back on the chain gang.

Like a break in the battle was your part oh
in the wretched life of a lonely heart
now we're back on the train
oh back on the chain gang.
28 Meanings
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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.

This is the portion I hold dearest in the song; a great drop of the beat / key, and the most poingnant lyric I can think of right now.

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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.

Yeah, that's what I got out of it too.

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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.

Song Meaning
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The song was originally going to be about Ray Davies, leader of the band The Kinks. Hynde and Davies were a couple and had a daughter together, but the meaning of the song changed after James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist, died of a drug overdose at the age of 25 in 1982.

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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.

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It's just a beautiful, sad song.

Regret and "what ifs?" are always painful, and in a romantic context, often-times unbearable.

There are so many emotionally powerful lines here.

My favorite being "Like a break in the battle was your part, in the wretched life of a lonely heart."

That part pierces me every time.

A woefully under-appreciated classic in my mind, and absolutely one of my very favorites.

Thank you, Chrissie.

My Opinion
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I wonder what she means by being back on the chain gang? Could it mean she's back in the drudgery of existence. What could perhaps be her lifestyle as a musician and at the same time suffering from the loss of her friend and lover. I think this song is wonderfully put especially when grieving over the loss of a loved one. Its very genuine though it seems that the lyrics are scattered, but that doesn't matter because her voice and sentiment brings it together. This is probably my favorite song from them.

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Here's a comment I have on a magazine of an interview with her about this particular song: "I'd shown it to James and he liked it. Then he died, and it turned into more of a tribute to him."

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The lyrics could mean various things & I doubt that what I have it right & have read otherwise about ray & honeyman meanings but from the lyrics this is what we get.

I found a picture of you oh what hijacked my world that night to a place in the past= Finding a picture of a person remembering a time in the past of them

we've been cast out of oh = Hardest one to decipher, cast out could mean sent away from the place in time of the past, jail, afterlife.

now we're back in the fight /we're back on the train yeah oh= Back on the train could mean back in the bustle & hustle of life i guess, on the road to prison, afterlife. when I see what they've done to you. = something bad happened to someone back on the chain gang. = prison labor

Lyrics below all show depression or sadness about having a broken heart & those being the happiest days of ones life.

But I'll die as I stand her today...... for making us apart. those were the happiest days of my life a break in the battle was your part oh/ in the wretched life of a lonely heart

So the conclusion is that Chrissie is looking at a picture remember someone she loved from the past that is no longer around lonely with a broken heart. This person could be a ex boyfriend, or possibly a family member or close friend. Somebody detaining from her love either broken up, dead or in jail. Those were the happiest days of her life when they were together.

My Interpretation

@BSANONYMOUS It is about Scott Honeyman who died and he was her writing partner partner and fellow musician and to some extent a great love although she had her own partners.

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"Back on the chain gang" means getting back to work after a trauma, with classic Chrissie Hynde philosophic toughness. From the video, it is clear that the literal prison chain gang represents the business world in the modern world, including dealing with the record business. The song begins with the wistful lines that grab everyone, stumbling onto a photograph of an old love and being transported in memory, like the Jim Croce song "Photographs and Memories." "Cast out of" means that it was a paradise. The paradise of love is contrasted with the train or the work world, from which the song is written.

It was a person she lived with as lovers, as is clear from the scene that was disrupted: phone, T.V. and world news got into their happy home life, and took them out of love and back onto the train. She returns to the transporting lines, "I found a picture of you," now to add, "Those were the happiest days of my life." This makes everyone who has loved, myself included, not only hijacked for a night, but to fall to tears when we hear it. Like a pigeon from hell in the house, these things destroyed their love. The work world does not bother her in itself, but like Cordelia, she is brought to her knees when she sees what the powers that be have done to him. Cordelia says, "For myself, I would out frown false fortunes frown," but seeing what is has done to Lear, she is cast down. James Taylor, in Fire and Rain, says, "Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you." And now the most amazing lines: Till the end of her life she will know, as she does today- because it is a permanent truth- that these powers will fall to ruin one day for destroying him and their love. This reminds of the speech of the Prince to the families of Romeo and Juliet, "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love." But the idea that someday the powers that destroy love will be destroyed for this is the apocalyptic promise. The masculine Hynde finds a comfort in the justice of this- which at first included an agnostic human questioning of God- the ruin and fall of the powers that make us live like we do, on the train, as part of the chain gang, forced labor in a world that destroys love.

From mmcdonald77.wordpress.com/music, Rock Commentaries

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