Chuck Berry – You Never Can Tell

And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

Now when I hear this song I think of Pulp Fiction because it was feature in the 1994 classic.

The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100, #11 in Canada, and #23 in the UK in 1964.

You Never Can Tell was written at a time when Chuck Berry was in prison…he also wrote Nadine in there. He was convicted in late 1961 of violating the Mann Act. Berry served one and one-half years in prison, from February 1962 to October 1963.

When he returned he was now facing the British invasion with the Beatles and the other bands out of England.

This song was released on his album St. Louis to Liverpool album in 1964. The album peaked at #124 in the Billboard Album Charts. The album included No Particular Place To Go and Promised Land.

In 1977, Emmylou Harris had a Top 10 Country hit with her version, which she renamed “(You Never Can Tell) C’est La Vie.”

From Songfacts

This song tells the story of a teenage couple getting married and staying together. Many of Berry’s songs are written from the perspective of young people, but this one even takes a dig at the older generation: “‘C’est la vie,’ say the old folks,” Berry sings. (“C’est la vie'” is French for “That’s life”).

Most songs that describe a young couple in love on their way to adulthood don’t end well, as disaffection or tragedy strikes. This song is unusual in that the couple does just fine, settling in with a nice record collection and some Roebuck furniture. As they settle into married life, their love stays strong. It’s not the storyline you’d expect, but you never can tell.

This was one of the new batch of hits Berry produced after being released from prison in 1963 after serving 20 months for “transporting an underage female across state lines for immoral purposes.” Berry had met a 14-year-old girl in Mexico who he brought back to St. Louis to work in his nightclub.

There is very little guitar on this track, which is driven by piano and saxophone.

When Berry sings, “The Coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale,” he’s referring to a brand of refrigerator called a Coolerator that was popular in the 1950s.

This was featured in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. It was used in the scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta dance to it in the twist contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s.

This is quoted in Stephen King’s 1995 novel, Rose Madder, when Norman – a policeman with a violent temper – contemplates his new promotion: “It made him think of a Chuck Berry song, one that went ‘C’est la vie, it goes to show you never can tell.'”

King referenced the tune again in The Institute (2019) to describe a successful teenage marriage like the one in the song.

You Never Can Tell

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin’ worked out well
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

They bought a souped-up jitney, ’twas a cherry red ’53
They drove it down to Orleans to celebrate the anniversary
It was there that Pierre was married to the lovely mademoiselle
“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

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