Arlo Guthrie - "Alice's Restaurant"

"Alice's Restaurant"

His most famous work is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", a talking blues song that lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds in its original recorded version. Guthrie has pointed out that this was also the exact length of one of the famous gaps in Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes. He has been known to spin the story out to forty-five minutes in concert. The Alice in the song is Alice Brock, who had been librarian at Arlo's boarding school in town before opening her restaurant, and who now owns an art studio in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The song lampoons the Vietnam War draft. However, Guthrie stated in a 2009 interview with Ron Bennington that the song is more an "anti-stupidity" song than an anti-war song, adding that it is based on a true incident. In the song, Guthrie is called up for a draft examination, and rejected as unfit for military service as a result of a criminal record consisting in its entirety of a single arrest, court appearance, fine, and clean-up order for littering and creating a public nuisance on Thanksgiving Day in 1965, when Arlo was 18 years old. Alice and her restaurant make up the recurrent refrain, but barely figure in the story. On the DVD commentary for the 1969 movie, Guthrie states that the events presented in the song all actually happened.

For a short period of time after its release in 1967, "Alice's Restaurant" was heavily played on U.S. college and counter-culture radio stations. It became a symbol of the late 1960s and for many it defined an attitude and lifestyle that were lived out across the country in the ensuing years. Its leisurely, sassy finger-picking acoustic guitar and rambling lyrics were widely memorized and played by irreverent youth. Many stations across the States have made playing "Alice's Restaurant" a Thanksgiving Day tradition.

A 1969 film, directed and co-written by Arthur Penn, was based on the true story told in the song, but with the addition of a large number of fictional scenes. This film, also called Alice's Restaurant, featured Arlo portraying himself. The part of his father Woody Guthrie, who had died in 1967, was played by an actor, Joseph Boley.

Despite its popularity, the song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" is not always featured on the set list of any given performance.

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