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 ofcapitalism. According to Lennon in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in December 1970, it is about working class individuals being processed into the middle classes, into the machine. Lennon stated (in the same interview) that he hoped that it was a warning to the people, a contemporary song for the revolution, for workers, thematically like Give Peace a Chance aimed to replace the older songs like We shall overcome.
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.."
In 1973, U.S. Representative Harley Orrin Staggers heard the song–which features the line But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see–on WGTB and lodged a complaint with the FCC. The manager of the station faced a year in prison and a $10,000 fine, but defended his decision to play the song saying, "The People of Washington [D.C.] are sophisticated enough to accept the occasional four-letter word in context, and not become sexually aroused, offended, or upset." Other U.S. radio stations, like Boston's WBCN, banned the song for its use of the word "fucking". In Australia, the album was released with the expletive removed from the song, with the lyrics censored on the inner sleeve.