Once again I'm in trouble with my only friend
She is papering the window panes
She is putting on a smile
Living in a glass house

Once again packed like frozen food and battery hens
Think of all the starving millions
Don't talk politics and don't throw stones
Your royal highness's

Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
Well of course I'd like to stay and chew the fat
Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
But someone's listening in

Once again we are hungry for a lynching
That's a strange mistake to make
You should turn the other cheek
Living in a glass house

Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
Well of course I'd like to stay and chew the fat
Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
Only only only only only only only only only only
There's someone listening in

Lyrics submitted by thewhitepony33, edited by Mellow_Harsher

Life in a Glasshouse Lyrics as written by Edward John O'brien Colin Charles Greenwood

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Life in a Glasshouse song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +14
    General CommentYorke said in an interview that this is basically a response to the media blitz that bothers the hell out of people, especially those involved only by family connections. He spoke of a lady who's husband was being relentlessly chased my the media for weeks. She put all of the pictures from the papers about her and her husband all over the windows of her house, so that the photographers on her lawn only could take pictures of those they already took. Thom thought that was ingenous, and that is where the "Papering the window panes" comes from. Great song, even better message.
    DammitSteveon July 19, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General CommentJust in case people hadn't heard it, the proverb "People in Glass Houses shouldn't throw stones" refers to hypocrisy - it means that people shouldn't condemn the lives or actions of others (throw stones - from the practice of publicly stoning offenders) if they themselves aren't faultless (live in a glass house). The stones (hypocrisy) would bring your own house (life, lies) crashing down, see?

    It's not about people being able to see you, but I guess it's possible they could have considered that kind of imagery.

    It fits quite neatly with the theme of media intrusion - everyone (particularly the media) is out to criticise these people and judge them (We are hungry for a lynching). The people living in a Glasshouse are the media, the song is directed at them.
    Edinburgh_Iainon September 14, 2006   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationA commonality with Radiohead fans is their diehard allegiance, and their inability to process any new product by the band as anything less than brilliant. They are, consistently, but the undying devotion is an unhealthy mentality, and to my own ears this song is addressing just that.

    The band's own musical and lyrical content has continued to experiment with, and heavily emphasize, the paranoia of everyday life. Papering the window panes is getting away from the eyes of society--originally about a woman Thom Yorke read about in the newspaper, but easily filtered through the eyes of an increasingly reluctant celebrity.

    When they speak of being packed like frozen fish and battery hens, I think of any show I've ever been to, with kids clamoring for the front row, desperate to catch a glimpse of their favorite band. But in the case of Radiohead, the fandom takes an unfortunate turn as their conversation shifts away from life in general into some higher plane, like, for example, the starving millions. The fans are constantly trying to read political or social meanings into a song that this band, most likely, wrote about a relationship and/or perhaps a smaller, more general social issue. Specific, hyper-literate lyrics rarely stand the test of time, and Radiohead realizes this. Their fans, by and large, unfortunately don't. (Don't talk politics, and don't throw stones, your Royal Highnesses.)

    It makes it very difficult to just enjoy a body of work when you insist on it making you feel guilty about some problem you have, really, no control over.

    If anybody posits an opinion that isn't just trolling the fans, the fans still interpret it as trolling. Once again, they are hungry for a lynching, and meanwhile the band is saying just turn the other cheek. What they make is art, capable of broad and widely divergent interpretation, and it's uncalled for to get so worked up over an opinion different than yours. Like all bands, Radiohead hits and misses over time, and even they acknowledge this.

    So the chorus, "Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat, well of course I'd like to stay and chew the fat, only someone's listening in"? By now it should be clear: Radiohead is saying it's perfectly acceptable to just enjoy a song, and that a song about a girl can still be a great song, even an "important" one, but there's always going to be that one buzzkill at the party who insists on making more out of whatever he just saw or heard than what it really was all about. How can you talk about how great the beat is in a song when you're obsessed with finding the specific literary touchstone it's referencing, and then mostly with the intention of regurgitating that knowledge to sound intelligent yourself?

    Radiohead is calling out their fans, and their fans don't even realize it, and that's what makes them the best at what they do.
    jugularnotchon August 15, 2012   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationIn keeping with Radiohead's theme with Ok Computer and Kid A, Amnesiac is all about Totalitarianism and its effect on humans.

    Thom once said in an interview that Kid A was like standing at the top of a mountain looking down at a burning town and that Amnesiac was like standing inside that town as it burned.

    It's a metaphor for totalitarianism that works almost perfectly.

    Imagine the world you live in is a house. Now imagine that house has NO PRIVACY. Sound familiar? now imagine this house has glass walls! Everyone can hear and see everything you do. So you have to be very careful not to offend anyone. Or they might paper up the walls to cut you out, but as much as you want to sit and chew the fat, there's always someone listening in. There's no secrets.

    The bit about lynching is the angry invoked by the governing body to occupy their time and frustration so they don't aim it at the people who are always listening in.

    But a lynch mob might just end up throwing the wrong stone, and bring everything collapsing down around us.

    That's my two bits.

    Read 1984. It's obviously a huge influence on Thom's lyrics.
    codeman9000on May 06, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Commentthom yorke specifically said the whole amnesiac album is about being stuck somewhere you don't want to be. just thought i'd let you guys know on that.
    buttonsisoncrackon July 13, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis might be about our Society. As most of their songs are critic on materalism, way of living etc.

    But I think lots of Radiohead songs can be about Thom relationships. This song is for me definitly one of them. Once again his old love recalls him. And these lyrics are about what comes through his head. Then "Living in a glass house" would mean he is surrounded fragile "things" (thoughts,memories,feelings) He has build and if he make just one mistake all can fall down on him.
    Gavieron January 27, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General Commentexcept Edinburgh_Iain already said that four years ago
    radiobroon December 18, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI LOVE THAT SOOOOOOONG!!!
    i think it's about how life can be boring sometimes... it's like everyday the same thing, i'm in trouble with my old friend...
    i think it's about how people like gossip so much... :P
    they wanna know everything about everybody and go telling what they know...
    i mean... not everybody do this...
    but there so many people who do this...
    how you can never hide something for a long time...
    i don't know how to say it
    i don't speak english very well... :P
    Nowhere_Girlon July 03, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust thought I’d add that the full length version (on the Knives Out single (or Spotify etc)) is definitely preferable... letting the sweet clarinet and sharp and mute trumpet do their thing so well just adds to the beauty of the song :)
    grenon April 08, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is just so amazing! I love this song. I think this song is about always being and tense and suspicious, when you feel you have no privacy and you suspect things of even the nicest people. When you think everyone has evil intentions. When you're always afraid to let down your guard because someone might want to take advantage of you. I just love that last line: "But someone's listenin' in". It gives me goosebumps every time! Great way to end a CD!
    Beowulf_Xtremeon May 20, 2002   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top