Alice’s Restaurant

Well, this is embarrassing.

You know I periodically include a post connected to either a holiday or a famous incident in history whose anniversary falls on or near my posting Wednesday. Somewhere, as I was putting together my blogging calendar for this year, I added Alice’s Restaurant, 50-years ago post on my July 25 slot. Where I got that wrong information shall forever remain a mystery.

Still, I have the post already written; the g’kids are visiting and I want to spend time with them, not writing at the computer; and I have no other 50th-anniversary posts for the month.  So, I’m posting it anyway. I hope you enjoy. Come on; it’s probably the most FUN anti-war song you’ll ever hear.

 

How’s your summer going? For me, it’s time for a little summer break. And for another look back at 50 years ago today.

Yes, 50 years ago Alice’s Restaurant hit the air. Let’s listen.

Oops. Before we get to the song I thought I’d share a few tidbits I’ve gleaned as I did the research.

Did you know this song is now included for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant”?

This somewhat comical anti-war song is surely Arlo Guthrie’s most prominent work. But did you know it is based on a true incident from his life?

Yup, as the song relates, the story begins on Thanksgiving Day (1965) with a citation for littering and ends with the refusal of the U.S. Army to draft him because of his conviction for that crime. Some call it more of an “anti-stupidity” song rather than anti-war.

Let’s go back.

Actually, before we listen, you need to get comfortable.

The more significant feature of this song is its length — 18 minutes and 34 seconds, officially.

I’m offering two versions:

  1.  if you want the music on in the background while you do other things (sorting laundry is one option), listen to this first one:

and

2. if you are planning to sit and really absorb the song’s message, the lyrics are displayed in this one:

 

OK, we’re back to present day me. Just a few additional tidbits.

Arlo sang this song in 1967 at the Newport Music Festival. But before that, he’d sung it live on New York’s WBAI in 1966.  I listened to that station all through high school. I must have missed it.

Cheers.

How about you?  Which one did you choose?  What stood out for you? 

35 Responses

  1. Clive
    | Reply

    I first heard this on John Peel’s late night programme in summer 1967, huddled under the sheets with my little old transistor radio. Peel was the only UK-based DJ playing the kind of American music which has since become the staple of my musical diet. This is absolute genius, and thanks for reminding me of it and of my youth 😊
    Clive recently posted…Interview With EsméMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah, the “huddled under the sheets” era of our lives. 🙂 Thanks, Clive. You had Arlo? I had …. well, we’ll leave that for a future post.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I was deprived of this (and most other) music in pop culture back then. My Mennonite parents viewed the radio as a place for news only. Thanks for the history here and the recording.

    Above all, enjoy those grandkids, Janet!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Aunt Ruthie’s Diary and My BirthdayMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I do hope you listened to it, Marian. It may take a few go-rounds to get the “full effect.” It is, as Clive mentioned, genius.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  3. Jerry Waxler
    | Reply

    Thanks for providing an informative flashback! The funny thing is that I was in that generation, thought I knew the song, loved folk music, was a war protester, the whole bit. And I had no idea that the song was about getting out of the draft because of a conviction for a petty crime. Funny to be learning this factoid all these years later.

    Thanks for the folksy, personal tone of your blog, Janet. When I started writing my blog I wanted it to be educational, and also to serve as a format that forced me to learn all about memoirs – it’s hard to keep pouring that energy into the blog year after year – I began to stall out after 430 posts, many of them over 1,000 words and many of them requiring dozens or more hours a piece. I started hundreds more that were never completed. Whew! It’s difficult to feel there is still more to say!

    If I’m going to keep up my posting, I need a folksier model that would allow me to relax into the post rather than take it so seriously. It looks like you have developed a pleasurable rhythm that keeps the drudgery out of blogging. Thanks for this way of keeping in touch.

    Best wishes
    Jerry
    Jerry Waxler recently posted…Author Interview: Memoir into FictionMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I think we all need to just be ourselves, whomever those selves might be, Jerry. You’ve already provided a valuable service in bringing “The Memoir Revolution” to people’s attention. And I have no doubt you’ll continue to share your gifts with the world. Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  4. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Janet. I know the song well, and I’ve listened to it many times. I’ve even seen Arlo Guthrie perform it in person. Every year, WXPN plays it on Thanksgiving Day.

    I’m impressed that you have a blogging calendar. My posts are seldom planned in advance. 🙂

    Enjoy having your grandkids around. I hope your summer is going well!
    Merril Smith recently posted…That House on Oxford: HaibunMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Merril, Funny you mentioned WXPN. The only time I went to the Philly Folk Festival was when Arlo was a headliner. We had good seats too. Ah, good times. As for my blog calendar — I want to be sure to cover as many interesting holidays and cross cultural events as I can. And I fill in the others with what’s happening in the moment. So, a bit of both. FYI, next week, August 2, I have a note to myself “Why not Aug 2 for Independence Day?” I must have read something, somewhere. So, I’ll delve into it and see if it comes out a blog post. Fingers crossed.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  5. Nancy McBride
    | Reply

    Timely, this! In our family, Alice’s Restaurant has morphed gently into a tradition with me and my grandchildren! When all of the cousins come together, once a year at my home, they make a menu, I buy the ingredients, and they cook and serve a meal, together. Friends and family are invited, menus printed, waiter costumes worn, and a good time is had by all. They also sing their version of the song (they learned from me) for it’s all based on “Nanu’s” (my grandmother name) Restaurant. They add in menu offerings of the day, and end it with a flourish, “…without a shirt on…at Nanu’s RESTAURANT!”
    I have both versions. Love how the long one drags out the story!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sounds hysterical, Nancy. Of course. So now you will provide us all with the words to your Nanu’s Restuarant song, yes?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  6. John rieber
    | Reply

    Terrific post. It was made into a movie as well, and spoke to the era more than almost any other song. The other that pops into my head is “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish…strange days indeed…
    John rieber recently posted…The Roadhog Burger! A “XXX”-Burger! North Korea’s Mystery Meat! The Five Strangest Burgers! Cheeseburger In A Can Too!My Profile

  7. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Even though it’s 50 years old, this song is brand new to me. After reading and enjoying everyone else’s comments, it’s clear that I lived under a rock!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Ready to Rumble?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Well, I hope you enjoy your catching up days here. This song is truly not to be missed, though as I mentioned to Marian earlier, it may need a few listens before it grabs you. I find it’s great when I’m folding laundry, washing dishes, or driving in the car. It’s a great Thanksgiving Day clean-the-kitchen song.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  8. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    I don’t know that I have a favorite version. Am I allowed to say that?

    I’ve been to Alice’s Restaurant, btw. Went there in the late ’70s with an aunt who lived nearby. I saw Alice. Brushes with greatness, sort of.
    Ally Bean recently posted…In Honor Of My 800th Blog Post, I Give You Daisies & ZinniasMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      It is a fun story about that restaurant. I hope you took lots of photos. But as far as versions? I hadn’t known there were different versions of the song; just multiple YouTube videos of it. Be wild; like them all. 🙂 So glad you stopped by, Ally.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  9. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Arlo and Alice’s Restaurant are included in my faves of all time. You’ll have me singing the refrain all day today. I’m already humming it! Thanks for reminding me of something I love out of the past!
    Joan Z. Rough recently posted…Retirement Anyone?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ear worm, ear worm alert. Could be worse, I imagine. Could it? Thanks, Joan; nice to have to here.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  10. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    I LOVE this song and always have. Funny thing, my daughter worked at Alice’s Restaurant in Nanaimo BC a few years ago. We played this song often as a family.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      How great that you’ve got FAMILY memories of this song. Sounds like such fun. Glad to see you here, Darlene.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

      • Darlene Foster
        | Reply

        This is my favourite post! I wonder why my picture doesn’t show up here.

  11. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    I do remember “Alice’s Restaurant”… Don’t remember what radio stations I listened to back then, but whether at home or in the car, radio was the in-thing. Thanks for the memories, Janet. 🙂 Enjoy the magical moments with your grands! P.S. We’re in the midst of VBS (Vacation Bible School) here in Hartland, ME this week. Believe it or not, I read “Faith the Cow” a non-fiction children’s picture book written for “Heifer International,” and sang the good old song “Faith, Hope and Charity” to the kids–they loved it wanted to sing it again and again…

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I love Heifer International. So glad you reminded me of their good work. Hope you are getting this same rain storm today; we all need it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Alice’s RestaurantMy Profile

  12. cherie
    | Reply

    I remember listening to this as a younger person, and thinking “Geez, will this song ever end?” I have a totally different response now that I am older, and the lyrics are meaningful to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I have to admit to the same reaction when I was younger. It was only after I really paid attention to the lyrics … Same with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Beatles). Listened to those lyrics for the first time only a few years ago. Wow! (yeah; not quite the same level). Thanks for stopping in, Cherie.
      Janet Givens recently posted…My Ode to AugustMy Profile

  13. Ellen Best
    | Reply

    I listened to the lyric showing version, I had heard it many moons ago on John Peels radio show he loved obscure recordings. Not sure if I need to hear it again but you never know when it will come in handy. The reference at the begining to where Alice lived the belfry of a church, kept me intreagued but it wasn’t mentioned again. I am glad to have been re introduced to it here.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      It’s one of those nostalgic bits. Brings back memories. Kind of an “absurdity of life” story. Good reminder. Thanks for stopping, Ellen.
      Janet Givens recently posted…My Ode to AugustMy Profile

  14. Brenda
    | Reply

    This was just what I needed – thank you. I hadn’t heard this before! I know I must live under a rock.
    Brenda recently posted…Weekly journaling – week 29My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’re welcome. I’m impressed with your honesty.

      I too have my rock clinging eras.
      Janet Givens recently posted…My Ode to AugustMy Profile

  15. Carolyn
    | Reply

    Thanks for the memories that came flooding back

  16. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    This is my favourite post! I wonder why my picture doesn’t show up here.

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