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The atmosphere around the writing of Cut the Crap, the final Clash album and the only one the group produced after firing founder member Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon, was notoriously difficult and edgy. Singer Joe Strummer would go on to basically ignore the whole period of 1984-5 as not even part of The Clash canon, except for "This Is England," which he regarded as his "last great Clash song." Guitarist of the period Nick Sheppard remembers a recording session where he added bass to the track and Joe describing it as "the only bit of the record (presumably describing the entire Cut the Crap album) with any bollocks on it!"
The lyrics, some of Joe Strummer's best, is a state-of-the-nation address for Britain as Strummer discusses the ills he sees around him - including the collapse of the British motorcycle production industry ("Black shadow of the Vincent falls on a Triumph line"), the harsh South Atlantic winter of 1984 that had seen many Britons die in freezing conditions ("South Atlantic wind blows, ice from a dying creed"), the wave of jingoistic patriotism that had accompanied Britain's victory in the Falklands War ("I see no glory, when will we be free"), and traditional old Clash themes of protest, police oppression and disillusionment ("Those British boots go kick Bengali in the head, police sit watchin', the newspapers been read, who cares to protest").
The music, also all written by Joe Strummer (who had to handle pretty much all songwriting duties after Mick Jones and Topper Headon were fired), included a multi-layered guitar riff and the best use of sampling on the Cut the Crap record (which is full of bad OTT sampling), in this case using a child's voice loop and a huge football crowd chant. The song suffers from the same weak drum machine patterns as the rest of the record, however.
The song became a popular addition to the post-Mick Jones Clash live show, and was played throughout the group's 1984 shows.