This song treads in unique lyrical territory: it's about a bomb on an airplane, from the perspective of the bomb (the "clockwork creep"). Airplane bombings were big news in 1974, reported with the sober tone appropriate for such a deadly serious issue. 10cc injected a great deal of sardonic humor into the song, with lyrics like:
The pilot is too busy flirtin' And he ain't aware That there's a bomb down there
Musically, it also has a comic bent, with a quirky rhythm and urgent ticking that makes it hard to take seriously. It's an example of 10cc's continuous efforts to make the kind of music that had never been done before.
The song speaks to how we become inured to tragedy the more we hear about it. Speaking with the New Musical Express, Eric Stewart of 10cc explained: "There you've got a very serious subject - people are hijacking planes, blowing up children - and it's in the headlines all the time. It's almost boring - and that should never be boring."
Band members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme wrote this song. All four members could sings, as well as write, and that vocal versatility came in handy here, with Godley, Creme and Eric Stewart each taking the lead in different sections.
On their next album, 10cc released a song called "I'm Mandy Fly Me," which also has an aviation theme. At the beginning of that one, a section of "Clockwork Creep" plays as if coming through the speakers on an airplane.