Alice’s Restaurant

Artist: Arlo Guthrie

Album: Alice’s Restaurant

I don’t know if I could recall how I felt the first time I listened to Alice’s Restaurant; I would have been 12 or 13 at the time, foraging through what remained of my parents’ album collection.

I can say the album got played, and played, and, perhaps, played some more. I played it to the point I could recite the entire Alice’s Restaurant ‘massacree’, as it were, by heart.

“This song is called Alice’s Restaurant, it’s about Alice, and the restaurant…”

Let’s back up a bit.

Arlo Gutherie, at the time, was the 20-year-old son of folk-singing legend Woody Gutherie, and he was attempting to follow those big folkie footsteps. At the time, he was working as an office boy for his father’s manager when he made his fateful trip to Stockbridge, Mass. during Thanksgiving in 1965.

Suddenly a legend was created.

Of course, the song was more than just Alice’s Restaurant and how Guthrie was arrested for littering. It also because an anthem against the Viet Nam draft, Guthrie working in the part of how he was called up for draft and declared ‘unfit’ for service because of his arrest for littering (though the real ‘record’ casts doubt on this; in spite of his dubious criminal record and he being a potential carrier for the genetically-inherited Huntington’s disease, he was in fact declared fit for service, but his draft-lottery number did not come up).

And that is how Guthrie’s career really took off; he performed the ‘massacree’ at the Newport Folk Festival to two very appreciative audiences.

In all that playing of Side 1, it seemed to totally escape me that there was a Side 2. Or at least, I rarely played it. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; I wouldn’t have been old enough to appreciate it.

The songs are short (the longest at 3:12) flights of fancy, a mix of breezy folk and ballads. Probably the best known from that album is The Motorcycle Song, a tune that sounds like Arlo learned it while sitting at the feet of his famous father.

However, Side 2 is overshadowed by Side 1; and a successful 40-year career in folk is built on a $25 fine for littering.