Chuck Berry – You Can’t Catch Me

I bought a brand-new air-mobile
It custom-made, ’twas a Flight De Ville
With a pow’ful motor and some hideaway wings
Push in on the button and you can hear her sing

…Chuck Berry

It’s hard to beat that first verse about a car. I can see the influence that Springsteen got from Chuck Berry with this 1955 song.

I found out about this song when Chuck’s publishing company (Morris Levy’s Big Seven) sued Lennon for Come Together saying that John Lennon ripped this song off. It centered around the Come Together line “Here come old flat top, He come grooving up slowly” to this song’s line “Here come a flat-top, he was movin’ up with me…and a guitar riff in there (although I can’t hear that). As part of the settlement, Lennon agreed to include a cover of You Can’t Catch Me on his 1975 solo album Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The case was settled out of court in 1973, with Levy’s lawyers agreeing that Lennon would compensate by recording three Big Seven songs for his next album. A brief version of “Ya Ya” with Lennon and his son Julian was released on the album Walls and Bridges in 1974. “You Can’t Catch Me” and another version of “Ya Ya” were released on Lennon’s 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll, but the third, “Angel Baby”, remained unreleased until after Lennon’s death.

Bruce Springsteen is famous for writing about cars in our teen years and the freedom they represent. Chuck was doing this in many songs such as this one and Maybelline.

Chuck Berry performed this song in the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock, where he can be seen doing his famous duckwalk. He refers to Maybellene, his earlier car hit. This song didn’t crack the charts at all which is a shame. This song seemed to be influenced by a Muddy Waters track called “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” which has a nearly identical guitar lick in the intro.

Chuck Berry: “This was a yearning which I had since I was aged seven to drive about in a car, it was my fascination for the roads, for driving, motoring, which prompted me to write those songs.”

You Can’t Catch Me

I bought a brand-new air-mobile
It custom-made, ’twas a Flight De Ville
With a pow’ful motor and some hideaway wings
Push in on the button and you can hear her sing

Now you can’t catch me, baby you can’t catch me
‘Cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze

New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours
I was rollin’ slowly ’cause of drizzlin’ showers
Here come a flat-top, he was movin’ up with me
Then come wavin’ by me in a little’ old souped-up jitney
I put my foot on my tank and I began to roll
Moanin’ siren, ’twas the state patrol
So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn
Bye bye New Jersey, I’ve become airborne

Now you can’t catch me, baby you can’t catch me
‘Cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze

Flyin’ with my baby last Saturday night
Not a gray cloud floatin’ in sight
Big full moon shinin’ up above
Cuddle up honey, be my love
Sweetest little thing I’ve ever seen
I’m gonna name you Maybellene
Flyin’ on the beam, set on flight control
Radio tuned to rock ‘n’ roll
Two, three hours passed us by
Five to two dropped to 5:05
Fuel consumption way too fast
Let’s get on home before we run out of gas

Now you can’t catch me, no baby you can’t catch me
‘Cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

15 thoughts on “Chuck Berry – You Can’t Catch Me”

  1. Chuck was a huge influence to the Beatles, so to me it isn’t hard to believe that the lyric may have been in the back of his mind as Lennon wrote.

    Side note:. When Chuck was out touring in the late 80’s he was coming through Detroit. The radio ads made me laugh. Imagine if you will, a big voice guy (kinda like the ones you’d hear for racing or wrestling) starting the ad by growling “The Chucker …. Is…..back!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I think Lennon was being nice, generous too – I don’t hear any similarity beyond the obvious snippet of lyrics about ‘ol flat-top’. But Lennon was probably A-Ok with recording a Chuck Berry tune or two to help him out a bit. That said, I like this song – I’m not always a big fan of Chuck’s music, though I acknowledge his influence on later rock, but this one is quite catchy indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your reply was stuck in my Spam! I just listened to the Blues Project version and it was great. I’ll listen to the Junior Wells version now…sorry John!

      Like

  3. ‘No Money Down’ ‘Jaguar And Thunderbird’ and ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ reek of burning rubber and gasoline. Not to mention the great lines from ‘No Particular Place To Go;’ ‘Can you imagine the way I felt, I couldn’t unfasten her safety belt, All the way home I held a grudge, But the safety belt it wouldn’t budge.’ Simple poetry with a great beat, in that Chuck was peerless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I listen to “You Can’t Catch Me”, I can literally see Chuck Berry duck-walking. The man just wrote cool songs! As a New Jersey resident, I also love the reference to the New Jersey Turnpike! šŸ™‚

    I didn’t know about that lawsuit against Lennon – except for the lyrical snippet, I really can’t see any obvious similarities – looks a little bit frivolous to me!

    Liked by 1 person

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