"Piano Lessons" as written by Richard Barbieri, Steven John Wilson, Colin Edwin Balch and Chris Maitland....
I remember piano lessons
The hours in freezing rooms
Cruel ears and tiny hands
Destroying timeless tunes

She said there's too much out there
Too much already said
You'd better give up hoping
You're better off in bed

You don't need much to speak of
No class, no wit, no soul
Forget you own agenda
Get ready to be sold

I feel now like Christine Keeler
Sleep waking in the rain
I didn't mean to lose direction
I didn't want that kind of fame

(Take your hands off my land)

Credit me with some intelligence
(If not just credit me)
I come in value packs of ten
(In five varieties)

And even though I got it all now
My only stupid dream
I see you and me together
And how it should have been

I remember piano lessons
Now everything seems clear
You waiting under streetlights
For dreams to disappear


Lyrics submitted by Ministry

"Piano Lessons" as written by Colin Edwin Balch Christopher James Maitland

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Piano Lessons song meanings
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28 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentgreat song, the piano and the guitar go so great together.
    I think the song is about a relationship with an older woman when he was younger, how the thing went public, and people were talking about it, and him.
    (Christine Keeler was a model involved in a big sex scandal back in the sixties.)
    how he fell in love with her, how she wanted to end the relationship, and how he wanted to continue, how he couldnt understand why they couldnt go on. saying he's not stupid. and how they (other people) should leave him and her, his piano teacher alone. (Take your hands off my land)

    just my opinion

    i just have to figure out what

    "I come in value packs of ten
    (in five varieties) "

    is supposed to mean
    CurryCurryon June 21, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with mat35.

    Plus, I always thought the references to piano lessons and the "she said there's too much out there" bit was about SW being told that music is dead, and there's no point trying- but he did, and although he's not famous he's fine.
    naiseboon November 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationFirst off, incredible song. Great lyrics, and an incredible atmosphere.

    That being said, let's dive in

    As was mentioned by others, the song seems to be about Steven Wilson's musical career up to this point, and his frustration with the music industry in general. He starts with his humble origins:

    "I remember piano lessons
    The hours in freezing rooms
    Cruel ears and tiny hands
    Destroying timeless tunes"


    Here he reflects on his beginnings as a musician, as a young boy with a terrible ear for music taking piano lessons, practicing for hours on end, destroying beautiful pieces of music with constant mistakes.


    "She said there's too much out there
    Too much already said
    You'd better give up hoping
    You're better off in bed"


    Here we have someone, "She" most likely being his piano teacher, or some other prominent female figure in his life (mother perhaps?) discouraging him from pursuing his musical studies any further, telling him he's wasting his time chasing a dream that's almost impossible (there's too much music out there already, everything's been done). As an adult, "she" understands the music industry, (if "She" is in fact his teacher, its a good chance she pursued similar dreams in her youth, and was probably crushed to find out that being a musician is nothing like she dreamt it would be) and is trying to steer him away, telling him:

    "You don't need much to speak of
    No class, no wit, no soul
    Forget you own agenda
    Get ready to be sold"

    Here she's explaining to him that if he wants to be a successful musician, he has to understand that there's more to the industry than just creating music, that to a producer, selling is more important than the actual creative process (you don't need much to speak of, no class, no wit, no soul, because these things don't necessarily sell albums), and that most of his ideas are going to be taken and turned into something different (something safe and marketable; radio-friendly)(I come in value packs of ten
    (in five varieties))

    "I feel now like Christine Keeler
    Sleepwaking in the rain
    I didn't mean to lose direction
    I didn't want that kind of fame"


    Now here I can't say anything for certain, because I honestly have no idea who Christine Keeler is (though if the other comments are correct, I see how it fits in), but this line seems to jump ahead from past to the present time, Wilson has reached the success he was told he would never reach, and now that he has it, he's saddened by how much he has strayed from his original dreams, nothing is how he expected it to be (just as his teacher told him all those years ago). He probably feels like he's been sleepwalking his way to fame, like he hasn't really earned his place, since many of his ideas have been changed from his original intentions.

    "(Take your hands off my land)"

    This seems to be his statement to his producer, telling him to keep his hands off his "land" (music), basically, "I'm the musician, I know what I'm doing, give me the freedom to do what I want".


    "Credit me with some intelligence
    (if not just credit me)
    I come in value packs of ten
    (in five varieties)"


    More of the same here, "Give my music a little bit of credit". The value pack line is a great metaphor for how his art is being commercialized.

    *brucifers idea about it being about his fingers is another great interpretation, one that I hadn't thought of, but adds a whole new dimension to the metaphor.


    "And even though I got it all now
    My only stupid dream
    I see you and me together
    And how it should have been"


    Here he yearns for his dream, the way he wanted it as a child.


    "I remember piano lessons
    Now everything seems clear
    You waiting under streetlights
    For dreams to disappear"


    To me, this last line seems to be a final reference to his music teacher. Wilson thinks back to his youth again, and having seen the music industry for himself, he has a new perspective on what she told him, and understands why she said what she said. As a child, he probably thought she was just being cruel, perhaps out of jealousy, but now he sees that she was trying to warn him. He sees her, "waiting under the streetlight", waiting for Wilson's dream to wither and die, just as hers did.


    Just my 2 cents.



    maidenfan912on December 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me its pretty clear that its about Steven or whoever who sacrified family or their significant other for Music, or getting famous.
    This is further supported by

    "And even though I got it all now
    My only stupid dream
    I see you and me together
    And how it should have been"
    Jobanicoidon January 21, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is amazing. a great and wonderful specimen of porcupine tree. i have to disagree the above song meaning. the lyrics in this song , signify his beginnings as a musician. i'd imagine the piano was the first instrument he learned, i know he thought himself the guitar and a few other instruments..but i think he's converying that his teacher and/or everyone else was telling him he couldnt do it. "too much already out there, too much already said". and his reply of credit me with soem intelligence here, i am multi-dimensional (value packs of 10, in 5 varieties) and i am not part of these paper thin artisits that rule the mainstream of music. i think everything else in this song can be tied to that theme..this song is great though, from one of their best albums (stupid dream)
    nebombon October 05, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfrom FAQ on porcupinetree.com :

    >>Who is Christine Keeler as mentioned in "Piano Lessons"?

    Christine Keeler was a prostitute who was involved in a notorious scandal in Britain in the sixties that resulted in the downfall of a leading politician John Profumo. As the song "Piano Lessons" is partly about the nature of celebrity, SW used Keeler as a symbol of someone who acheived their fame without having any conventional talent.
    m4t3kon May 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe line "Destroying timeless tunes" could relate to the second interpretation about him learning his first instrument, and trying to learn a classic song and butchering it with horrible skills.

    And that Christine Keeler thing is interesting...
    atomsplitteron July 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcould the I come in value packs of ten be sarcasm?
    The Hollow Soulon February 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHollow_Soul, i think you may have a point. I think the 'value packs of ten' refer to himself being sold as a product, a celebrity being marketed.
    grooveygroveson February 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really love the melody of this song(one of my favourites)
    I think hes jus kinda talking abt how musicians currently are, how they end up making it big but at the same time just getting marketted and loose their own direction.
    the prob is with both the theories proposed above there are problems
    with theory no.1 regarding love - this doesnt fit -
    I come in value packs of ten
    (in five varieties)
    then for the fame , etc theory - this doesnt fit -
    I see you and me together
    And how it should have been
    its like both the theories are true.
    Nevertheless, I'm crazy about this song (Top 2 with Synesthesia)
    Dark_Toweron June 09, 2006   Link

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