The song is a take on the class split of the 1940s and 1950s, and of the 1960s in which he was famous. The song appears to tell the story of someone growing up in the working class of "capitalism". According to Lennon in an interview with Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine in December 1970, it is about working class individuals being processed into the middle classes, into the machine.
The song features only Lennon and an acoustic guitar playing basic chords as his backing. The chord progression is very simple, and builds on A-minor and G-major, with a short detour to D-major in one of the lines in the chorus. Lennon's strumming technique includes a riff with a hammer-on pick of the E note on the D string and then a loose A string, which gives the song a beat and character..". The tone and style of the song is similar to that of Masters of War by Bob Dylan, a known influence of Lennon's.
In 1973, US Representative Harley Orrin Staggers heard the song — which includes the lines "'Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" and "But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see" — on......