This wistful ballad is sung by Shane MacGowan from the perspective of a World War I veteran. The Pogues vocalist based its melody on "Wild Mountain Thyme," a folk song penned by Francis McPeake in 1957 in a traditional Irish style.
The song was the first by The Pogues to make the UK singles chart, peaking at #72.
When accordion player James Fearnley first heard the song, he realized Shane MacGowan's songwriting had gone up a level. "Musically that song had a timeless eternal vibe," Fearnley told The Irish Post December 16, 2013. "I really enjoyed the chords; it felt like there was a circular motion about the chord progression. The vocal melody was sublime and there was this instrumental section which had a real purity about it. I found that very appealing."
"Against that music you have lyrics which I found difficult to track, they were almost counter to the music and that was very exciting," added Fearnley. "He (MacGowan) would smash up an image in shards and rearrange it as a way to find the story. I love the way you have Shane as narrator and how he gets through the story of the song. There's a jaded irony about it where he's making light out of dismemberment and the horrors of war; I always like that about Shane's songs-they pack an extra punch because he holds back the punch."
The song's music video was directed by Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy), who also used Rum, Sodomy & the Lash producer Elvis Costello, in his film Straight to Hell. The clip portrayed Margaret Thatcher as a supreme, Big Brother-like authoritarian figure. It was said to be comment on a totalitarian government and the politics of the then British Prime Minister.