Many rumours have arisen about the song's content, such as Jones' impending dismissal from the Clash or the rocky personal relationship between Jones and singer Ellen Foley, but Jones himself says:
It wasn't about anybody specific and it wasn't pre-empting my leaving The Clash. It was just a good rockin' song, our attempt at writing a classic... When we were just playing, that was the kind of thing we used to like to play. – Mick Jones, 1991
On the spur of the moment I said 'I'm going to do the backing vocals in Spanish,' ... We needed a translator so Eddie Garcia, the tape operator, called his mother in Brooklyn Heights and read her the lyrics over the phone and she translated them. But Eddie and his mum are Ecuadorian, so it's Ecuadorian Spanish that me and Joe Ely are singing on the backing vocals. – Joe Strummer, 1991
The single was reissued several times. It was first reissued in 1982, with a different cover as a double A-side with "Straight to Hell" and with "Cool Confusion" as its B-side. It was reissued again in 1983, with "First Night Back in London" on side two, and then for a third time in 1991, with "Rush" by Mick Jones' group Big Audio Dynamite II as a double A-side, with a remix of "Rush" as its B-side (see the table below).
^"The Uncut Crap - Over 56 Things You Never Knew About The Clash". NME. London. 3. 16 March 1991. ISSN0028-6362. OCLC4213418. 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' was written by Mick about American singer Ellen Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell LP.
^Moser, Margaret (22 May 2000). "Music: Lubbock Calling (Austin Chronicle. 05-22-00)". The Austin Chronicle. Weekly Wire. Retrieved 22 November 2007. I ran into them accidentally in New York when they were cutting 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' and Strummer said, 'Hey, help me with my Spanish.' So me and Strummer and the Puerto Rican engineer sat down and translated the lyrics into the weirdest Spanish ever. Then we sang it all. When you listen to 'Should I Stay or Should I Go,' there's a place in the song where Mick says, 'Split.' Me and Strummer had been yelling out the Spanish background lyrics and we had snuck up behind him as he was recording. We were behind a curtain, jumped out at him in the middle of singing, and scared the shit out of him. He looks over and gives us the dirtiest look and says, 'Split!' They kept that in the final version.