This tells the tale of a homeless drug addict, whose only possession of worldly value is a golden ring on his hand. The person relating the story obviously had known Charlie for awhile, and when they met late one night, Charlie begged him to purchase the ring, because he was in dire need of cash. Of course, Charles immediately uses the cash to buy drugs, and overdoses on them. When the author finds out, he heads down to the morgue, and places the ring on Charlie's finger, somewhat regretfully.
Thoughts Posted by StephenPHatton
I've always felt this song is an evocation of the late 60's, with special reference to a call for "peace." The changing of the guard here is not a literal reference (such as a palace guard being replaced during a shift change). It's referring to a generation becoming older, and the younger generation having a different viewpoint, and wanting to be heard; and more importantly...being taken seriously.
I've heard that this song is essentially describing a draftee for the Vietnam War. It makes perfect sense if you view it that way. Someone who is a conscientious objector would "decline to walk the line" (the lineup of other draftees being given physicals), and be described as "lazy." The woman (presumably a nurse) would ask the man to keep his opinions to himself, and just do his civic duty. "Fire in the hole" from the chorus is a term used most frequently with explosives / armaments. "With a cough" - another term used when given a physical (if you are male.) "Yellow stripe" - he is now owning up to being scared, and basically just wants to bolt for the door - "love to run out now, there's nowhere left to turn."
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