Having learnt the song at school, Joe Strummer suggested that the band should update it. Those on the left wing saw the rise during the mid-1970s of far right groups such as the British National Front as alarming and dangerous omens for Britain's future. The song is about this state of politics in the country and warns against all things uniformed and sinister. Shortly after the song had its first live performance at a Rock Against Racism concert, Strummer said in an interview to the music newspaper Record Mirror:
"War is just around the corner. Johnny hasn't got far to march. That's why he is coming by bus or underground" (as in the song's lyrics).