"Corner Soul" draws on influences from roots reggae, a genre The Clash had always been quick to acknowledge as a huge influence on the group. Direct influences on "Corner Soul" include Max Romeo's "War ina Babylon" as well as the styles of British reggae bands such as Third World, Steel Pulse and Misty.
Joe Strummer's lyrics are an attempt to capture and highlight the growing tensions on the streets of inner cities across Britain which would explode into riots in summer of 1981 in places such as Brixton, Toxteth and St Pauls, and actually pre-empts the riots and destruction by almost a year ("The big meeting has decided, That total war must burn on the grove"). It includes a direct reference to controversial British politician Enoch Powell, whose speech in Birmingham on April 20, 1968 became hugely controversial after his assertion that mass immigration would lead to race wars and "rivers of blood." The lyric, "is this music calling for a river of blood?" is a direct reference to that.
"Corner Soul" featured for most of 1981 in The Clash's live set, being added in the Radio Clash tour early in the year and being played further during their legendary residency in Bond's Casino in New York in June of that year.