The song is based on two books: The Forgotten Soldier
by Guy Sajer (1965) and The Diary Of Vikenty Angarov
by Victor Muravin (1978). The Forgotten Soldier
is from the perspective of a German soldier; The Diary Of Vikenty Angarov
is an account of a Russian soldier. In a Songfacts interview with Mike Scott of The Waterboys
, who wrote the song, he said: "These two books were very inspirational to me, and so I wrote the song. And I remember my girlfriend at the time was a huge Roxy Music fan, and one of her favorite songs was 'A Song For Europe,' in which Bryan Ferry sang, 'jamais, jamais, jamais' at the end of the song. It had that A minor, F, G, E minor chord sequence. So, I nicked that chord sequence, devised this lyric based on these two books."