Hey sister, have you heard?
Some people stand like trees, without a word
And what that means is that some people don't talk.

Oh please pardon me mister.
Ya know I just didn't hear you the first time that you said that,
But now that you repeat for me, I'll be sure to do what I can.
Ya know I'm going to do what I can,

Do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can.
Gonna do what I can,
Do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can,
But no more, you understand?

Oh please pardon me father.
Ya know I just didn't hear you that, that, that
That first time that you said th...
Help me, help me, help me, help me...

Repeat it, repeat it, repeat it.
I'll be sure do, do, do what I can.
Do what I can, do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can.
Gotta do what I can, do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can,
But no more, you understand?

It's of utmost importance, we're dealing with volitiale substance. (4 times)

I had so much on my mind.
I was so glad when I died, oh...

Listen to me baby.
Can you keep a secret for me?
Make sure no one finds out,
Cause then the lights will go out,

And I will find you out,
And I will cut you up.
Uh hmm, don't ask me why,
Because, I said, I said, I said

I'm gonna do what I can, do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can.
Gotta do what I can, do what I can, do, do, do, do what I can. (3 times)
But I'll have none of that, you understand?

Don't you know nothin'? You never tell on someone. (3 times)

Don't you know nothin'? You ain't never going to tell on someone.

What you going to do?
Gonna turn, gonna turn rat fink?
What you want to do?
Do want to see, do you want to see what it's like to sink?

Sink down, sink down, sink down, down, down to the bottom of the river.
Sink down, sink, sink down down.
Down, down, to the bottom of the river, sink, down sink.
Sink down, down. Down, down to bottom of the river.

Sink down, sink, sink down down.
Down, down to the bottom of the river.

Don't you know no one? You never tell on someone. (3 times)
Don't you know no one? You ain't never gonna tell on someone. (3 times)

Ah, ah, oh, I tell you what it's like, I tell you what it's like, oh.
I stood right up in the heart of Hell, I never tell. (3 times)
I stood right up in the heart of Hell,
I'm never gonna tell, tell, tell, tell.

I'm never, never, never, never gonna tell, tell, tell, tell.
Nothing, nothing, never gonna tell, tell, tell, tell.
I'm never, never, never, never gonna tell, tell, tell, tell.
Nothing, nothing, never gonna tell, tell, tell, tell.

Lyrics submitted by Milkman82

"Never Tell" as written by Gordon James Gano

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Never Tell song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite Femmes songs. It's really sick though. I think it's about a father raping his daughter and the brother is agreeing never to tell but that it should never happen again. He'll go to Hell if it means not telling what his father has done. He considers telling and talks himself out of it. He'd rather go to hell than become a rat fink

    Father, sister could be religous figures too. Maybe he's an alter boy.
    55779on June 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdespite the words "father" and "sister," i don't think this song deals with family dysfunction. most of the referents ("sink down to the bottom of the river," "gonna turn rat fink?," "then the lights will go out") point to organized crime and the importance of keeping silent in that context. but the lines "Don't you know no one? You never tell on someone," combined with Gano's whiney, repetitive vocal performance give a strong impression of a schoolyard setting for the song. this makes the most sense to me, seeing as the aforementioned references to gangland violence are all cliches which any kid might pick up from watching TV or movies.

    in any case, this is a pretty chilling and brilliant piece. whether the tirade is ostensibly against whistle-blowers in the mafia, schoolyard, family or elsewhere, it repels us with its threatening and simple-minded taunts one minute and displays shocking conviction the next. it's hard not to admire the crook who belts out in the final section, "I stood right up in the heart of hell--I never tell!"
    tommythecat42on September 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy favorite Femmes song
    Ghost Trainon September 15, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentawesome song. straight awesome
    webbman88on November 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always found this song pretty funny. He sounds so cute when he says, "And I will find you out, and I will cut you up." It sounds so... not threatening, even if the words are. I love it.
    I imagine an assassin singing every time. =P Rather amusing in my mind.
    Cancerous Adversaryon April 08, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn the beginning sister refers to a nun who is suspicious of a priest's actions. The kid won't rat him out but gets destroyed by keeping the sexual abuse a secret. By remaining silent he becomes a perpetrator himself. The same cycle of abuse is then repeated
    finky64on June 03, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My Interpretationwow, some of the interpretations here are really annoying.

    the beauty of the violent femmes and their lyrics is that they manage to capture feelings we all feel in the most vaguest way possible by describing them in a way where you can only understand if you've been through the exact same thing. i remember listening to their self titled in middle school and feeling pretty ambivalent about their song "promise", but after a few years of high school and re listening to the album, I fell in love with the song because it perfectly described what i was going through at the time. so when you're listening to the violent femmes, you're actively participating. you think of your past experiences and you make your own unique and personal connection with the song.

    just take everything at face value & enjoy.
    prepostmortemon October 14, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentı think everyone here gets that the amazing delivery (and bass lıne) here are what makes this one of the Femmes best songs.

    Obvıously, someone has witnessed a horrible act done by someone they are very loyal to. If the song wanted you to know exactly what the horrible act was, ıt would have told you - its deliberately open to interpretatıon. Could be molestatıon or murder. The latter may be slightly more likely.

    The sister is an interested party, perhaps the victim - or even the perpetrator. He is either telling or reassurıng her that he will remain silent when people come asking questions - but we don't know if that's what she wants or what she doesn't want.

    'Mister' is probably a police officer, asking questions about the event. The speaker doesn't answer at first, then asks the officer to repeat the question, and says he will 'do what he can' - probably not giving the whole story.

    'Father' could easily be a priest, maybe in confessional (though Gano is Baptist, not Catholic). Even with the seal of confessional, 'father' doesn't get the truth either. But at least he gets warned that there are some things the speaker will not talk about.

    Volatile substance is just a dangerous situation that can explode and hurt people. If the 'gangland' interpretation is used, it could also be a reference to drugs. But its the situation that is explosive.

    The next lines (I had so much on my mind . . .) are interesting, because we don't know if the death he is happy about is metaphorical (the death of conscience?) or literal. ıf the second. the speaker is actually speaking from beyond the grave. So, either the narrator changes, or the character does die mid-song without telling the secret - and is literally standing up in the heart of Hell.

    The creepy lines about secrets and cutting people up could be a different speaker. Or not - he is willing to kill for this secret. Probably with a knife, putting the body in the river after. Or maybe he dies for the secret instead, and its his body sinking - the whole time assuring his kıller that he won't talk. But the killer needs to make sure - 'I'll have none of that . . .'

    The 'sink' part is either a threat to kıll a squealer, or a statement of what happened to one by the murderer .

    'Don't you know no one?' is a statement of basic principles. The 'heart of Hell' line (which is written in past tense) could be literal, for a dead speaker who keeps the faith and protects his killer, or figurative, someone living with the guılt.

    The whole thing confuses personas deliberately, and conveys desperate life-or-death secrecy without creatıng a coherent narrative. The story isn't important. What is important is that we know how serious the person or persons is or are.
    nathan1149on February 12, 2018   Link
  • -2
    My InterpretationThis song isn't even remotely funny. Like most Femmes songs, it is very dark and morbid. It is also my favorite, even beating out classics from their first album like "Kiss Off" and "Add It Up". I agree with the organized crime/mafia interpretation, although I think it could refer to any situation where someone witnesses a crime or knows something they shouldn't and wants to tell, but is pressured to never tell at the expense of perhaps of their own life. This kind of situation can tear someone's conscience to pieces, as the moral dilemma is too much for some people to handle. It could happen anywhere - gangs, dysfunctional/deranged families, etc. In this particular situation the narrator chooses to "stand right up in the heart of hell" rather than tell. It shows they are willing to give up their sanity and possibly their soul to avoid squealing. This can be construed as either a bold and admirable or weak and cowardly decision, depending on your point of view. I also find it extremely ironic that the cheery spiritual "Jesus Walking On the Water" begins to play right after this song on the original album.
    HyperBullyon April 15, 2010   Link

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