"Janie Jones" was one of the first ever songs written by The Clash, written not long after singer Joe Strummer had joined to initially form the band in 1976. The tune and chorus apparently came to guitarist Mick Jones whilst riding on the 31 bus from Harrow Road to Chalk Farm in London, with Strummer subsequently helping out with the rest of the lyrics.
Musically the song is very simple, with bassist Paul Simonon's one-note bassline in the choruses being very noticeable. It could be speculated that this is a deliberate musical attempt to emphasize the monotony and boredom of the lyrics, but more likely it's because at this stage Simonon was still learning to play bass properly and couldn't physically play anything more complicated!
The lyrics concern the average working life, and the struggle to try and find some fun in a boring office job. The protagonist attempts to have some fun by meeting up with a lady friend after hours ("An' he knows when the evening comes, when his job is done he'll be over in his car for you"), and also discusses how the dull job and abusive boss ("An' in the in-tray lots of work, but the boss at the firm always thinks he shirks") is necessary to cut a living ("But he's just like everyone, he's got a Ford Cortina that just won't run without fuel").
It also includes the first of many anti-establishment sentiments in Clash songs ("This time he's gonna really tell the boss, gonna really let him know exactly how he feels").
Period references include the aforementioned Cortina (a popular cheap car of the time), the sitcom Love Thy Neighbour ("Fill 'er up, Jacko!") and the 1950s Payola radio scandal ("There's no payola in his alphabetical file").
The title comes from the actual name of a controversial cabaret singer/vice queen from the 1950s and '60s who attracted controversy from being involved in the payola Radio One scandal in the 1960s in a "sex for airplay" scenario. Her other scandals included attending the premiere of a film in 1964 in a topless dress, and being arrested and jailed in 1973 for not just the Payola scandal but also for running a brothel and perverting the course of justice by threatening witnesses. She also had a partial pop career in the 1960s, including a single "Witches' Brew" which peaked at #46 in the UK Singles Chart. According to the band, they used her name because someone like her would seem impossibly glamorous to someone working in a dull office job. She subsequently became friends with the band, and together with The Clash and the Blockheads (credited jointly as The Lash) she released another single in 1982 entitled "House of the Ju-Ju Queen," which was also produced by Joe Strummer.
The song is notable in The Clash's canon in that it is the only song of theirs to be played from first show to last. The band played so many shows and had a policy of rotating their setlist night by night, so it's hard to say that it was played at every single show, but it certainly featured in 99% of their shows and tours to all accounts. It was played in their first shows in 1976, and in their farewell shows in 1985.
The simple nature of the song means that it is very easy to cover, and many cover versions of the song exist, including versions by the Rockabilly band The Farrell Brothers (for the This Is Rockabilly Clash album), Bush, The Paddingtons, The Slackers (ft. Chris Murray), Songdog, and famously by Pete Doherty's band Babyshambles.
The Babyshambles cover is notable for several reasons - lots of stars of the British indie rock scene feature on the track, including the Kooks, the Gulliemots and the Dirty Pretty Things. This was Carl Barat's first collaboration with Doherty since the breakup of The Libertines, although neither actually met during the recording process. The music video features the original Janie Jones of the title being chauffeured around London in a limousine with original Clash guitarist Mick Jones.