Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tunesday: "Ball and Chain," Social Distortion

This song reminds me of so many people and places. It's a tune that finds its way back into my life just when I need it. As I've mentioned before, I tend to not pay much attention to lyrics; but (a big But) this song is different. I can't say I have experienced all of the troubles Mike Ness details in the verses, but I relate to my fair share. And the chorus is easily one of my favorites. A ball and chain. That can be anything. I have never been incarcerated, but I have been tethered to vices, depression, bad relationships, unhealthy living and work.

Stop staring at my cycling glove tan line and admire
that bass face! Final church service with GPS, July 8, 2007.
Those are the memories that come to mind when I hear and sing this song. And that's the message I was fortunate to share with a congregation I cared greatly about a handful of years ago. Nope, this isn't your typical worship song, and GPS isn't your normal church. As a member of the church's worship group, Waypoint, I learned plenty of songs by groups I had never heard of (Hillsong United, David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, etc.) and even got to sing some gospel again; but we also played meaningful contemporary music that jibed with the week's message.

I was unsure if "Ball and Chain" would resonate with people, so I saved it for my final church service, 24 hours before I left the Midwest to return to Texas. Before playing, I shared some of my "balls and chains" and told everyone how difficult it was to leave a place that helped me grow and people I loved and who loved me despite all my flaws. After service, a handful of people mentioned they liked my interpretation of the song, and one said she was going to share the song and my words with her son who was struggling. How awesome is that?

Approximately 16 years before that worship service in Machesney Park, Ill., I bought the cassette (yep, that's right, a tape) and was lucky enough to meet Social D's classic lineup (RIP, Dennis Danell) at an autograph session at RPM Records in Garland. Seeing real-deal rock stars who looked effin' badass made a big impression. I never adopted the greaser look (certainly didn't dabble with guy-liner like Mike in the video above), but I decided that day that I would have tattoos — ones that are reminders of moments and people in my life, just like this song does.

What else? I finally saw Social D in 2004 — a belated birthday gift — at the Austin Music Hall. I couldn't have been more disappointed. Ness couldn't stay on pitch. It was sad.


That Pink Girl said...

It is common knowledge that all the coolest kids have gnarly cycling tans. IJS.
And that's disappointing about M. Ness.

Robert Tracy said...

I'd like to think that Social D. performance was an aberration, but I've watched videos of other shows where he had pitch issues. Make no mistake, what Mr. Ness lacks in intonation, he makes up with bravado!