You Never Can Tell (song)

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"You Never Can Tell"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album 'St. Louis to Liverpool'
B-side "Brenda Lee"
Released August 1964
Format 7" single
Recorded 1964
Genre Rockabilly
Length 2:43
Label Chess Records
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Philip Chess
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"No Particular Place to Go"
(1964)
"You Never Can Tell"
(1964)
"Promised Land"
(1964)

"You Never Can Tell", also known as "C'est La Vie" or "Teenage Wedding", is a rockabilly song written by Chuck Berry. It was composed in the early 1960s while Berry was in federal prison for allegedly violating the Mann Act.[1] Released in 1964 on the album St. Louis to Liverpool and the followup single to Berry's final Top Ten hit of the 1960s: "No Particular Place to Go", "You Never Can Tell" reached #14 becoming Berry's final Top 40 hit until "My Ding-a-Ling" in 1971. A 1978 Top Ten C&W hit for Emmylou Harris, the song has also been recorded or performed by Chely Wright, John Prine, New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Jerry Garcia Band,[2] Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger.

Description[edit]

The song tells of the wedding of two teenagers and their lifestyle afterward. Living in a modest apartment, the young man finds work and they begin to enjoy relative prosperity. Eventually they purchase a "souped-up jitney" (an automobile modified for high performance) and travel to New Orleans, where their wedding had taken place, to celebrate their anniversary. Each verse ends with the refrain, "'C'est la vie,' say the old folks, 'it goes to show you never can tell.'"[3] The melody was influenced by Mitchell Torok's 1953 hit "Caribbean".

Pulp Fiction[edit]

The song briefly became popular again after the 1994 release of the film Pulp Fiction, directed and co-written by Quentin Tarantino. The music was played for a "Twist contest" in which Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman ) competed and won (and were the only contestants shown in the film). The music added an evocative element of sound to the narrative and Tarantino said that the song's lyrics of "Pierre" and "Mademoiselle" gave the scene a "uniquely 50's French New Wave dance sequence feel".[3]

Impact[edit]

Nick Lowe has indicated this song was a source of inspiration for his song "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)", which has been recorded by Dave Edmunds, Status Quo and Lowe himself.

Cover versions[edit]

Emmylou Harris version[edit]

"(You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie"
Single by Emmylou Harris
from the album Luxury Liner
B-side "Hello Stranger"
Released February 2 1977
Format 7" single
Genre rockabilly
Length 3:27
Label Warner Bros
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Brian Ahern
Emmylou Harris singles chronology
"Light of the Stable"
(1976)
"(You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie"
(1977)
"Making Believe"
(1977)

Emmylou Harris' remake of "You Never Can Tell" - entitled "(You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie" - served as the lead single from the January 1977 album release Luxury Liner, Harris' Warner Bros label debut.

Early in her career Harris had sung Chuck Berry songs as a member of a DC-based folk oriented trio: her decision to record "...C'est La Vie" was the result of her listening extensively to rock-&-roll oldies while on the road. [4] The track, which features a prominent Cajun fiddle contribution by Ricky Scaggs, was recorded in an August 10 1976 session in Beverly Hills, being recorded in the Enactron Truck, the mobile studio owned and operated by Harris' producer Brian Ahern: the same session yielded the track "Hello Stranger" which would serve as the B-side for "...C'est La Vie" in its single release.

Released February 2 1977, "...C'est La Vie" rose as high as #6 on C&W chart in Billboard that April. The track also became Top Ten hit in the Netherlands and also the Flemish Region of Belgium, with respective peaks of #4 and #5, also charting in Germany at #41.

In a 2013 interview Harris cited "...C'est La Vie" as a song she'd lost interest in: "'C’est la Vie' was a wonderful song to do, and I might [perform] it for nostalgic reasons, but it just lost its appeal for me after a while. I didn’t feel that I was bringing anything to it, I guess."[5]

Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri"," This Day in History, History.com, A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
  2. ^ "Jerry Garcia Band, 10-31-92, Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland". Shakedown Blog. Accessed July 2010.
  3. ^ a b Robert Miklitsch (April 2006). Roll Over Adorno. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7914-6733-6. 
  4. ^ Watts, Derek (2008). Country Boy: a biography of Albert Lee. Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-7864-3658-3. 
  5. ^ Anderman, Joan. "A Full Circle for Emmylou Harris". New York Times (March 22 2013). 
  6. ^ "Projects: Willie And The Poor Boys - Studio album". BillWyman.com. 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 

External links[edit]