"The Crooked Beat" is often viewed as bassist Paul Simonon's followup to his popular song on the London Calling album, "The Guns Of Brixton." The songs share a South London location in the lyrics and also Simonon's monotone vocals. Both songs were written fully by him.
This was one of the very last songs recorded for the Sandinista! album, at Wessex in September 1980. It is rumoured to have been written and recorded quickly in order to both fill space on the huge triple-album, and give Paul Simonon some royalties. Indeed, the track is actually two versions of the same song - the original is then followed back to back by a dub remix by Mikey Dread, the Clash's producer at the time, featuring authentic Trenchtown patois vocals from Dread and an echo-saturated production.
The lyrics are inspired by the popular nursery rhyme "There Was A Crooked Man."
The song was one of the many more obscure tracks on Sandinista! never to be played live by The Clash, probably because "The Guns of Brixton" was used live as Simonon's signature song (he would swap instruments with singer Joe Strummer, who would play bass while Simonon sang lead vocals).