What does Ball and Chain mean?

Search Login

Social Distortion: Ball and Chain Meaning

Get "Ball and Chain" on MP3:

Get MP3 from Amazon
Get MP3 from iTunes

Ball and Chain Lyrics

Social Distortion
Ball and Chain

Well it's been ten years and a thousand tears
And look at the mess I'm in
A broken nose and a broken heart,
An empty bottle of gin
Well I sit and I pray
In my broken down Chevrolet
While I'm singin' to...


    click a star to vote
    Oct 4th, 2008 10:48am report

    Anyone who has dealt with drug and alcohol addiction in anyway- be it personally or through a family member or friend- will know that this song is about addiction. The ball is the drugs and alcohol and the addiction is the chain that ties you to it.

    "Well it's been ten years, and a thousand tears" this means that the past ten years he has spent in the throws of addiction, and he cried over all that he has been through and what he has done "And look at the mess I'm in" is hitting rock bottom, and knowing that your life is a mess, it links to the first step of any 12-step program- We admit that we are powerless, and our lives have become unmanagable. "A broken nose and a broken heart, an empty bottle of gin" refers to the fact that when drunk you are more emotional, he got in a fight because he had been drinking over being hurt. "Well I sit and I pray, in my broken down Chevrolet, while I'm singing to myself, there's got to be another way" He is praying to his higher power to save him from the cycle he lives in of getting f*cked up. And in his heart he knows that there is a better way of dealing with life than running from it by drinking or using. Take away, take away, Take away this ball and chain, I'm lonely and I'm tired, And I can't take any more pain, Take away, take away, Never to return again
    Take away, take away, Take away this ball and chain" When you are an addict, no matter who you are around you feel alone, and he is tired of this way of life. He can't handle everything that the alcoholism and addiction is inflicting on him and his loved ones. "Well I've search and I've search, to find a better life. A brand new job and a brand new suit, I even got me a little wife." Is him thinking that changing various things will make life better, without him having to give up alcohol. "But wherever I have gone, I was sure to find myself there" This is a common saying in AA(Alcoholics Anonymous) and other 12-step programs. It means that no matter where you go, no matter what you try to do, until you address the roblems inside of you, nothing will change. You will always be YOU no matter how you change the outside. "You can run all your life, and not go anywhere" Is another line from 12-step. It means that you can do a lot and go wherever, but you won't make anything of your life if you don't work on yourself and put sobriety first. "I passed the bar on the way, to my dingy hotel room. Spent all my money, been drinkin' since a half past noon" means that he didn't go into a bar, because he has literally spent all his money on booze already, his dingy hotel room is because he has probably lost the house he had, or because he hasnt had a house since all of his money goes to alcohol and drugs. been drinking since a half past noon shows that he has a problem. He isn't just drinking occasionally at night, he starts as soon as he is awake and doesn't stop until he is passed out. "I'll wake there in the morning, or maybe in the county jail" means he will either wake up in the hotel, or get arrested and spend the night in jail, because he is drunk or because of his action because he is drunk. "Times are hard gettin' harder, I'm born to lose and destined to fail" This is the mindset of every alcoholic before recovery. They drink to forget everything they have done, how they hurt people and themselfs, thus inflicting more damage, leading to drinking more. They lose everything that means anything to them, because they are too deep in the addictions.

    I believe this song to be about drugs and alcohol the first time I heard it, my mother agreed when I told her my thoughts...a few months later we were at an AA Speaker Meeting, and Mike Ness (who is now in AA and NA(Narcotics Anonymous) was the speaker. He told his story and explained this song while he was telling his story. I didn't get a chance to talk to him after the meeting like I wanted to, but still...this explanation is a more detailed explanation of what he told the song to be about in that meeting.


    click a star to vote
    Sep 28th, 9:53am report

    I also see this song as a mental health struggle. Perhaps because that’s how it fits my life. I love it. I’m considering getting a tat and making the “ball” of ball and chain, my moms face/head. Also wherever


    click a star to vote
    Sep 28th, 9:20am report

    I also see this song as a mental health struggle. Perhaps because that’s how it fits my life. I love it. I’m considering getting a tat and making the “ball” of ball and chain, my moms face/head with “you can run all your life and never go anywhere”. It’s symbolic and means a lot to me. My mom was horrible. And as an adult I’m now dealing with a lot of mental health issues I’ve never had before, I’m 43. I’m ready to be free of this crazy bitch(mother) once and for all.


    click a star to vote
    Mar 11th, 2020 3:13pm report

    This song is clearly about herione it takes ten years to reilize that your in a no win sitution you realize that you just wanna feel normal like everyone else but it takes herione to do so cause the honeymoon is over the high disapers and your stuck with herione to feel like the next guy...fubar. No joke


    click a star to vote
    Nov 25th, 2017 11:09pm report

    I see the song slightly differently than others. I think the titular "ball and chain" is not booze per se, but depression (and I am talking clinical depression here not the occasional, garden variety case of the blues that we all go through when our dog dies or our team loses in the playoffs). Clinical depression can be soul crushing and, invariably, if you dig deep with just about every alcoholic or drug addict, you will find that self-medicating their depression is what started their spiral. In any case, in the song, it is his depression that leads to all of the other bad stuff: his drinking, his marriage failing, and all of the other problems in his life.


    click a star to vote
    Nov 12th, 2017 11:45pm report

    I thought the phrase was about my wife who I haven't felt close to for 14 plus years. Maybe my innocence and really bad advice!
    I had no idea it was about addiction...theres a wake up call to reality and not some 'joke' while hanging near the grill during a weekend party.
    I've a new appreciation for the lyrics.
    Can't wait to see you rock again!


    click a star to vote
    Mar 27th, 2012 3:45pm report

    Ball And Chain by Social Distortion

    Well it's been ten years and a thousand tears
    And look at the mess I'm in
    A broken nose and a broken heart,
    An empty bottle of gin
    Well I sit and I pray
    In my broken down Chevrolet-
    While I'm singin' to myself
    There's got to be another way

    I'm gonna write this from a woman's perspective. And no commas at all, except for that one. Almost ten years is how long she's been addicted to loving her boyfriend and a thousand tears is a nod to Led Zeppelin because in their song "Tangerine" Robert Plant sings "and now a thousand years" have past and are in between the two of them and the time they spent together. It seems like their love was soooo long ago and once upon a time they were sage and kindred spirits but now she feels like a geezer/old fogey. She has been put through an extremely traumatic & trying experience due to her Love/addiction. She feels wasted and spent because she has cried a thousand tears (which is funny because in actuality she has cried a GAZILLION tears). Noses are for snorting in the sweetness of life and her nose has had no action as of late. Her nose and her heart both feel broken. She is Sitting in her Chevy (say that 10 times fast - haha) which isn't functioning and she is singing to her bottle of gin. The alcohol smells of pine trees but she can't whiff up any of the glory due to her damaged proboscis. She thinks there just has to be another way because she feels so grody.

    Take away, take away
    Take away this ball and chain
    I'm lonely and I'm tired
    And I can't take any more pain
    Take away, take away
    Never to return again
    Take away, take away
    Take away this ball and chain

    She wants the entire kit-n-kaboodle of sorrow and frustration to get the hell away from her. She is exhausted and she feels as if loving her boyfriend or the gin is equivocal to having a gigantic octopus perched on top of her forehead. It is noticeable and tedious & painful to remove. She goes to a loony bin because everyone knows that gin is made of juniper berries and it causes people to be as Mad As A March Hare. Her boyfriend fashions her fragility too as he purposely causes her mental collapse. The sanitarium where she resided for many months housed addicts and unglued nutcases just like herself. They were all good people with a bad problem. There was a woman who drank 2 pints of vodka before she left for her DUI class and she smashed her SUV through the fence of a local golf course demolishing greens before totaling her rig in a ravine. (She missed her DUI class.) A man who pooped inside of pizza boxes in his own million dollar brownstone and who rinsed out his burn wounds with Tylex. Another man who ran with a Honduran Drug Cartel. I had a friend who stole drugs from the hospital where she worked & took her own daughter's painkillers when she had her wisdom teeth out. Her daughter suffered while my friend was flyin high. Another friend said he'd never pondered the consequences of his dope use. He looks back at it all now and knows that he wouldn't have said, "Oh yeah! I'd love to spend the next ten years of my life sitting on my ass- eating doritos & watching reruns of Gilligan's Island." The degree to which he had become emotionally isolated from his loved ones was the biggest consequence of all. This -fine people- is the definition of Ball & Chain.

    Well I've searched and I've searched
    To find the perfect life-
    A brand new car and a brand new suit
    I even got me a little wife-
    But wherever I have gone
    I was sure to find myself there-
    You can run all your life
    But not go anywhere

    She was forced to do some intense and rough introspection. There is a joke she heard that "Psychotherapy is like sailing around the world... You spend tons of time and money and you end up in the exact same place you started." She disagrees with that sentiment but Social Distortion is referencing this type of philosophy.. She knows "money does not happiness buy". She can purchase a new snazzy sports car and an Armani suit and be the biggest empty guido on the planet. She can find a wife or a new dog or some type of companion- but she still won't have her boyfriend- the one she loves. He Is Home To Her. She can run and sprint like Forrest Gump but she isn't going to get anywhere unless she finds her Love who happens to be the octopus who sits on her face hence she looks similar to Davy Jones from Pirates of The Caribbean. (He too has a "broken" nose.)

    Well I'll pass the bar on the way
    To my dingy hotel room-
    I spent all my money
    Been drinkin' since half past noon-
    I'll wake there in the mornin'
    Or maybe in the county jail-
    Times are hard getting harder
    I'm born to lose and destined to fail-

    As she drives past bars and her boyfriend's house - she always looks in their direction in a very nostalgic manner. She knows "she can't go there".. She lets out a heavy sigh as she makes her way to her grim accommodations. She spends her money drinking "China Green Tips" tea from Starbucks. She supports the coffeehouse heartily as they have taken a brave stand in favor of gay marriage. She might wake up in prison for being such a rebel. Times are tough and she often feels defeated. She just wants to go home to her ball and chain boyfriend who is murdering her daily.


    click a star to vote
    Jan 8th, 2009 1:54am report

    I love this song, because how easily i relate to it. Its being stuck in an unescapable rut. Nothing going right, you dont see the light at the end of the tunnel, and your sure its not there. "born to lose and destine to fail" thats just no matter what i do i will not succeed, apply for a job... dont get it, go to school.... flunk out, get a girl.. she leaves you, get a loan... default on it. This is a song about being a loser. I know this all too well.


    click a star to vote
    Jan 24th, 2007 1:25am report

    this song is about depression.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


    click a star to vote
    Oct 18th, 2005 10:14pm report

    One of, if not the best hard luck story ever written. A story about being heartbroken, broke and born to lose. A folk prayer for deliverance from intolerable circumstances.

More Social Distortion song meanings »


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

Heart of Gold anonymous
Can We Kiss Forever? anonymous
Burn It Down anonymous
I See Fire anonymous
This Feeling anonymous
Saving Us anonymous
You Already Know anonymous
Finale anonymous
Birthing Addicts anonymous
Tomorrow anonymous
Crawling King Snake anonymous
Prom Queen anonymous
WHATS POPPIN anonymous
Delta Dawn Sexiscomedy
Lips of an Angel Angelboo

Get a weekly email update

(We won't give out your email)

Latest Releases

Dirt Road
Kidd G
We Didn't Have Much
Justin Moore
Come As You Are
Tenille Townes
Make It A Good One
Brothers Osborne
If It Wasn't For Trucks
Riley Green
Baby, I'm Jealous
Bebe Rexha
My Way, Soon
Greta Van Fleet
Show Them The Way
Stevie Nicks