Works, Volume 1
was a double album with Keith Emerson the focus of the first side, Greg Lake
the second, Carl Palmer
the third, and the entire band sharing equally on Side 4. "C'est La Vie" was one of the songs Lake wrote for his side with help from lyricist Pete Sinfield, who was his bandmate in King Crimson. Telling the story of the song, Lake said: "I used to live in Paris for a while. A very beautiful city. I sometimes would go out walking in the streets there, and you'd often hear this instrument playing. I don't know what they call it, really, but it's one of these barrel organ things you wind up. It's the sort of sound, it's a bit like a Las Vegas casino. It kind of lives with you.
Anyway, I'd heard this barrel organ playing. And I walked on back home towards my apartment. I went past this cafe and I heard the voice of Edith Piaf, the famous French lady singer. And when I got back to the apartment I thought, I really would like to write a sort of French song with some French feeling. I don't really speak French, but I knew this phrase, 'c'est la vie,' that's life. And so I thought, That would make a good idea for a song.
So I wrote this song, "C'est la Vie," and we recorded it and put it onto Works Volume I
. However, a couple of years later it was covered by a French singer called Johnny Hallyday. And he's a sort of French Elvis Presley. Anyway, he had a #1 hit with it in France, which as an Englishman, of course, gave me a great deal of pleasure."