Dan Penn originally recorded and released this song, composed with his songwriting partner Spooner Oldham, as "The Puppet," and it tanked. When Oldham subsequently brought the Purify Brothers (who were actually cousins James Purify and Bobby Dickey) to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to cut some sides, they picked "The Puppet" out of the demo pile but mistakenly sang the refrain as "I'm your puppet." Penn initially dismissed the track as a Sam & Dave rip-off but agreed to release it as a single anyway. "When it came out and became a hit, I loved it," the writer and producer laughingly admitted. "It was easy to get on board later."
Boy George has said this song was about standing by what you believe in. However, at the time, he was involved in a secret affair with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss. "Now people can understand the songs better," he said. "They were written about my relationship with Jon, and they were also written about being a gay man in a homophobic world." The lines "If I listen to your lies, would you say/I'm a man without conviction/I'm a man who doesn't know how to sell a contradiction," described his life at the time, he said. "I was selling this big lie."