This is one of many throw-your-fist-in-air Alarm songs the band was known for in their early years when they were young and hungry and rebellious. “Sixty Eight Guns” was their battle cry, a call to arms against the establishment. This attitude was fomented in their hometown of Rhyl, North Wales, where they grew up in bleak economic times and fought naysayers who saw no need for another rabble-rousing rock band. The martial imagery reflects their push against this prevailing attitude.
Lyrically, this song was inspired by a book Alarm frontman Mike Peters read called A Glasgow Gang Observed by the Scottish author Patrick James. It was published in 1973 but set in 1968, which is why there are 68 guns in the song title.
“It was about young people at that difficult age where you’re too cool for school, but not wise enough or eligible enough for adult life,” Peters said in a Songfacts interview. “So, it’s about people like that – like I was, once. We hung around on street corners, we started bands, we bought clothes, we identified with each other, and we credit these very bonded groups of individuals. And that’s how the Alarm grew.”