The lyrics for this song are famously inscrutable, due to singer Richard Jobson's diction and accent. The chorus line of "Ahoy! Ahoy! Land, sea, and sky!" in particular often confuses people - a fate that often befalls The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary
" as well. Jobson noted that the lyrics were written about Scottish youths being recruited into the army, with a personal touch after a friend was killed on duty in Northern Ireland.
Local legend alludes that the "valley" referenced in the song's title is a nod to High Valleyfield, known to locals as "The Valley," which is a village near The Skids' hometown of Dunfermline known for tribal/gang warfare with other local villages.
This has become a popular football anthem, particularly for football clubs with references to valleys. For example, both Charlton Athletic FC and Bradford City AFC have used it as club anthems, owing to their stadium names: The Valley and Valley Parade, respectively. Dunfermline Athletic FC continue to use it in tribute to the band being from Dunfermline, as do Redditch United FC, who play at Valley Stadium.
This is perhaps the band's most well-known song, outside of "The Saints Are Coming
," due to both its strong chart position upon release and for its use in several marketing campaigns - Maxwell audio cassettes and the hardware retailer Halfords both have used it for advertising campaigns.
The song started off as a poem written by Richard Jobson in his mid-teens. He condensed his intense world view into a collection of rhymes inspired by death, Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and the brutal experiences of friends who had served in Northern Ireland.
"Tennyson's poem had all the things you love as a young guy -heroism and tragedy and loss," Jobson told Uncut. "They were the very same qualities I tried to imbue in what was to become 'Into The Valley.'"
The song title was inspired by a line from "The Charge of the Light Brigade - "into the valley of death rode the six hundred." Jobson recalled:
"I'd been working on it as a poem for a long time, since I was 15 or 16. A lot of my older friends from where I came from in Scotland couldn't get jobs, and the last thing open to them was the British Army. They were pretty much sent straight to Northern Ireland for training. And it changed them a lot, in quite a negative way."
The song was originally titled "Depersonalized." Jobson explained that he had in mind, "the idea that you could be stripped of your identity and personality, and thrust into the ferocity of a situation very naively."
"A lot of the guys I knew who went to Northern Ireland had become prejudiced when they came back," Jobson continued. "They spoke about Catholics or Irish Nationalists in a very negative way, and always used that precursor, 'I know you're not like that, but...' It definitely had a curious effect on them as people, and psychologically scarred them. So that had a deep influence on the song."