This song was inspired by Bragg seeing two satellites flying alongside each other in the clear night sky on his way back home from the pub. He was searching for some romantic inspiration at the time but had to make do with wising on "Space Hardware" instead. He scribbled words about a poet besotted with a girl he does not yet know on some fish and chips paper.
Billy Bragg has admitted he stole the melody from the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy.
When Kirsty MacColl asked to cover this song, Billy Bragg wrote her an extra verse because it was a bit short for a single. MacColl was the daughter of the English folk musician Ewan MacColl. She is probably best known in the United States as the writer of Tracey Ullman's 1983 hit "They Don't Know." She was killed in 2000 while scuba diving off the Mexico coast. She was run over by a speedboat after pushing her sons out of its path. The speedboat was traveling too quickly in an area reserved for scuba diving.
MacColl's version reached #7 in the UK in 1985.
The song starts with the lyrics: "I was 21 years when I wrote this song/ I'm 22 now, but I won't be long." The Simon & Garfunkel track "Leaves That Are Green," begins with exactly the same lines. Bragg told The NME, in a January 2011 interview: "When I wrote the song, I never thought one day Kirsty MacColl would put it in the Top 10. I was 21 when I wrote it and I'm a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan so it seemed like a nice line to put in."