The song was written by John Lydon about apartheid in South Africa and specifically about Nelson Mandela, as Lydon stated in a 2013 Glastonbury interview,. Lydon also referred to Northern Irish RUC interrogation techniques, such as electric torture, in an MTV interview in 1987. It was one of the group's biggest commercial hits, peaking at #11 on the UK Singles Chart and being featured on albums in both the Hits and Now That's What I Call Music! series in the UK. The song contains the phrase 'May The Road Rise With You', which is a rephrasing of the old Irish blessing "may the road rise up to meet you".