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How Arlo Guthrie's 'Alice's Restaurant' Became A Thanksgiving Classic
KUNC ^ | 11282019 | Kunc

Posted on 11/29/2019 2:29:33 AM PST by Fzob

On Thanksgiving, radio stations around the country will play Arlo Guthrie's 1967 "Alice's Restaurant." But why is this 18-minute song about littering and Vietnam considered a Thanksgiving song?

KUNC's Colorado Edition put that question to Margot, music host from our sister station 105.5 The Colorado Sound.

Erin O'Toole: For those who aren't familiar with the song, could you describe it?

Margot: "Alice's Restaurant" is based on a true story of something that happened to Arlo Guthrie and his friend Rick Robbins, who is also a musician. They were home for Thanksgiving, and they were hanging out with their friend Alice – Alice is a true person – and they had a big Thanksgiving dinner at this church were Alice lived. She kind of made the church a sanctuary for people who were "of like minds," that perhaps surrounded in a city by people who were not "of like minds" — my nice way of saying they were hippies and freaks. And so a lot of people would hang out there, and Alice had a big Thanksgiving dinner.

And Arlo and his friend Rick decided the next morning that it would be really nice to help Alice clean up. So, they did. They put everything they could fit into Arlo's VW bus to take to the town dump… and once they got there they found the dump was closed. So they thought, "well, we have this VW full of trash; what should we do with it? Oh – here's an existing pile of trash. We'll just add it to that."

What could be the harm?

Right. So that's what they did. And the next day, they were visited by the Chief of Police. He cited them for littering, and they had to appear in court. And Arlo Guthrie was found guilty of this tragic offense of littering – and, interestingly enough, because he had a record, he was no longer eligible for the Vietnam draft. So, he never had to go.

Of course, this takes place on Thanksgiving, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the holiday. Was this song originally considered something else? It feels like more of a protest song.

To be truthful, there wasn't a lot of attention paid to the song at first. But then, Arlo was invited to appear on a radio station in New York called WBAI. Plays "Alice's Restaurant" live. And of course, it's 18 and a half minutes long… but people loved it! They thought it was the greatest song. And they started calling WBAI and requesting "Alice's Restaurant." The true title, I should add, is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" – and that's how you say it.

What does that mean?

Arlo Guthrie explained it at one time. He said it's "a series of absurd events." So the Alice's Restaurant movement is against absurdity and in favor of reason – and listeners loved that idea. What WBAI started doing was using "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" as a pledge drive thing (because they're a public, non-commercial radio station). "If you give us money, during our pledge drives, we'll play (the song)."

And that worked. And it morphed into a Thanksgiving tradition because it takes place on Thanksgiving – and there are no Thanksgiving songs. Think about it – there aren't any!

I can't think of one, really. People have been citing the Adam Sandler’s Thanksgiving Song…

Well, the "Thanksgiving Song" isn't really, that's not going to be a tradition on the Colorado Sound because it doesn't touch people the way "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" does. The idea – it's such an absurd thing to have happened to these guys who were trying to do such a nice thing. And if you really think about it, one of the reasons we all know they were cited is because they were hippies, you know? And so I think that touches a chord with people. But I also think people like traditions. And Thanksgiving is nothing if not about tradition.

So, once WBAI started playing this on Thanksgiving, other radio stations across the country started getting requests from people who moved from New York City and knew of this tradition. So that's how radio stations started playing "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" on Thanksgiving. It was kind of an organic movement.

We found this interview with Arlo Guthrie talking to NPR in 2005, and here's what he said about the song:

"It became an underground thing; not just here but everywhere, with guys on all sides of the struggles over there, and the struggles that were going on here. And it overcame, and it actually became, now, really – it's a Thanksgiving ballad more than an anti-war this or a pro- that or whatever it was. And I think – it could only happen here."

I thought it was interesting to get his take. What do you make of that, about this transition from a protest song to a Thanksgiving song?

I think Arlo Guthrie was really surprised by the success of "Alice's Restaurant." And as most songs do, they change with the times. Think of your favorite song – a song you truly love – and it meant something to you at one time in your life. Now think about how that song means to you 20, 30, 40 years down the road. The feeling, the kernel of that feeling is still there, but the idea of the song in your mind has changed just a bit. "Alice's Restaurant" is the same thing, and I think Arlo Guthrie (knew), when times change, songs can fit to the changing times.

And the best songs, I think, have these kind of all-encompassing lyrics where people can put their own meaning to it.

So now, I don't think the song that Arlo, as he sang it in 1967, means so much "The Man's ridiculous," as it means more "my dad listened to this, and so I listen to this on Thanksgiving. And now my children will listen to this on Thanksgiving." As the years pass, the meaning changes and it becomes different for each family. I think that's what he's referring to.

You can hear 'Alice's Restaurant' at noon on Thursday, Nov. 28. Tune in at 105.5 FM, or online at coloradosound.org.

This conversation is part of KUNC's Colorado Edition for Nov. 27. Listen to the full episode here.


TOPICS: History; Society; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: alicesrestaurant; thanksgiving
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1 posted on 11/29/2019 2:29:33 AM PST by Fzob
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To: Fzob

This story almost reads like the song.


2 posted on 11/29/2019 2:40:05 AM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: Larry Lucido

I’m just sittin’ here on the ‘Group W’ bench .....


3 posted on 11/29/2019 2:52:10 AM PST by a little elbow grease (... to err is human, to admit it divine ...)
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To: Fzob

Guthrie and Thanksgiving? Where?


4 posted on 11/29/2019 2:54:53 AM PST by BenLurkin (The above is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire. Or both.)
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To: Fzob
It could be said that "Alice's Restaurant" is Thanksgiving's song for some folks .... and "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" could be the movie.

A very sweet movie at the end.

5 posted on 11/29/2019 2:57:35 AM PST by a little elbow grease (... to err is human, to admit it divine ...)
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To: a little elbow grease

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s
where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after
committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly
looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father
rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And
they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the
bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest
father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean ‘n’ ugly
‘n’ nasty ‘n’ horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me
and said, “Kid, whad’ya get?” I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay
$50 and pick up the garbage.” He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?”
And I said, “Littering.” And they all moved away from me on the bench
there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I
said, “And creating a nuisance.” And they all came back, shook my hand,
and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing,
father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the
bench. And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of
things, until the Sargeant came over, had some paper in his hand, held it
up and said.


6 posted on 11/29/2019 2:58:45 AM PST by Fzob
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To: a little elbow grease

Wife and I watch the movie every year. Classic.


7 posted on 11/29/2019 2:59:59 AM PST by Fzob
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To: All

8 posted on 11/29/2019 3:00:59 AM PST by a little elbow grease (... to err is human, to admit it divine ...)
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To: Fzob

Had some friends who considered it a thanksgiving must listen.

I found it dull. Like listening to Second City TV albums or Monty Python.


9 posted on 11/29/2019 3:01:27 AM PST by Chickensoup (Voter ID for 2020!! Leftists totalitarian fascists appear to be planning to eradicate conservatives)
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To: Fzob
"I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W’s where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean ‘n’ ugly ‘n’ nasty ‘n’ horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me and said, “Kid, whad’ya get?” I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.” He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?” And I said, “Littering.” And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.” And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing, father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the bench."

_______________

ROFL .... that was great.

10 posted on 11/29/2019 3:05:01 AM PST by a little elbow grease (... to err is human, to admit it divine ...)
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To: a little elbow grease

Didn’t know this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlo_Guthrie#Politics

Guthrie identified as a registered Republican in 2008. He endorsed Texas Congressman Ron Paul for the 2008 Republican Party nomination, and said, “I love this guy. Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there. I’m with him, because he seems to be the only candidate who actually believes it has as much relevance today as it did a couple of hundred years ago. I look forward to the day when we can work out the differences we have with the same revolutionary vision and enthusiasm that is our American legacy.”[32] He told The New York Times Magazine that he is a Republican because, “We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.”[33]

Commenting on the upcoming 2016 election, Guthrie identified himself as an independent, and said he was “equally suspicious of Democrats as I am of Republicans.” He declined to endorse a candidate, noting that he personally liked Bernie Sanders despite disagreeing with Sanders’ platform, and he praised Donald Trump for not relying on campaign donations, stating that he thought it “wonderful” that “he’s [Trump] not in anyone’s pocket,” but did not believe that this necessarily means that Trump has the best interests of the country in mind.[34]

In 2018, Guthrie contacted publication Urban Milwaukee to clarify his political stance. He stated “I am not a Republican,” and expressed deep disagreement with the Trump administration’s views and policies on immigration. Guthrie further clarified, “I left the party years ago and do not identify myself with either party these days. I strongly urge my fellow Americans to stop the current trend of guilt by association, and look beyond the party names and affiliations, and work for candidates whose policies are more closely aligned with their own, whatever they may be ... I don’t pretend to be right all the time, and sometimes I’ve gone so far as to change my mind from time to time.” [35]


11 posted on 11/29/2019 3:06:31 AM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: a little elbow grease

With the Father Rapers.


12 posted on 11/29/2019 3:08:55 AM PST by Responsibility2nd
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To: Fzob; All

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPJzNNpUFsU

Ending scene .... Trains Planes and Automobiles

(excellent)


13 posted on 11/29/2019 3:09:07 AM PST by a little elbow grease (... to err is human, to admit it divine ...)
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To: a little elbow grease

P, T & A does have an uplifting message ending. Steve Martin’s toity white collar character looks down on John Candy’s all through the movie, until the end, when he realizes Candy has no home or family, and shares his.


14 posted on 11/29/2019 3:11:47 AM PST by Rennes Templar (Heaven has a wall and gates. Hell has open borders.)
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To: Larry Lucido

He sounds a lot like many Freepers, truth be told.


15 posted on 11/29/2019 3:27:30 AM PST by NohSpinZone (First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers)
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To: Fzob

I first saw Alice’s Restaurant just after having my service physical. That part really hit home.

Anybody have any extra?


16 posted on 11/29/2019 3:30:41 AM PST by fproy2222
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To: Chickensoup

Monty Python isn’t dull (wink wink nudge nudge).


17 posted on 11/29/2019 4:03:36 AM PST by Russ (I)
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To: Russ

No, it’s just racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic,...

< /s >


18 posted on 11/29/2019 4:08:02 AM PST by a fool in paradise (Recall that unqualified Hillary Clinton sat on the board of Wal-Mart when Bill Clinton was governor)
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To: Russ

19 posted on 11/29/2019 4:09:29 AM PST by a fool in paradise (Recall that unqualified Hillary Clinton sat on the board of Wal-Mart when Bill Clinton was governor)
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To: Chickensoup

Not everybody has the same tastes but you’d be hard-pressed to find many folks who think that Monty Python is dull.


20 posted on 11/29/2019 4:31:35 AM PST by HotHunt (Been there. Done that.)
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