You Never Can Tell (song)

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"You Never Can Tell"
Song by Chuck Berry from the album St. Louis to Liverpool
Released November 1964
Recorded December 1957–August 1964, Chess Studios, Chicago
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:43
Label Chess
Writer Chuck Berry
Producer Leonard Chess, Philip Chess

"You Never Can Tell", also occasionally referred to as "C'est La Vie" or "Teenage Wedding", is a rock and roll 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] The song was originally released in 1964 on the album St. Louis to Liverpool, and has also been recorded or performed by Chely Wright, John Prine, New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Jerry Garcia Band,[2] Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Emmylou Harris.


The song describes a wedding between a young couple and the events afterwards. Living in a modest apartment, the jobless young man finds work and, together with his spouse, they find prosperity. They use the money to expand their music collection and eventually purchase a family car to drive to New Orleans to celebrate their anniversary, where they had originally met. The chorus of the song is "'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 became briefly popular again for a time in 1994 after the release of the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. The music was played for a dance contest in which John Travolta as Vincent Vega and Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace danced for the contest's main prize. 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]


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"
"(You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie"
"Making Believe"

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]



  1. ^ "Chuck Berry is arrested on Mann Act charges in St. Louis, Missouri"," This Day in History,, 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". 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 

External links[edit]