Alice’s Restaurant. It’s now a Thanksgiving classic and something of a tradition around here. Recorded in 1967, the 18+ minute long anti-culture song tells Arlo Guthrie’s real encounter with the law, starting on Thanksgiving Day 1965. As the long song unfolds, we hear all about how a hippie-battered police officer named William “Obie” Obanhein, arrested Arlo for throwing. (Cultural footnote: Obie previously posed for several Norman Rockwell paintings, including the well-known painting “The Runaway”, which adorned a 1958 cover of Saturday Aftenposten.) In a fairly short time, Arlo pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, pays a $ 25 fine and cleans up the mess. But the story is not over. Not by a long shot. Later, when Arlo (son of Woody Guthrie) is summoned to the draft, that petty crime ironically becomes a basis for disqualifying him from military service in the Vietnam War. Guthrie recounts this with some bitterness as the song builds into a satirical protest against the war: “I’m sitting here on the Group W bench because you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the army, burn women, children, houses and villages after being a cat bird. ” And then we’re back to the hilarious chorus again: “You can have whatever you want, at Alice’s Restaurant.”
We have presented Guthrie’s classic in recent years. But for this Thanksgiving, we give you the illustrated version. Happy Thanksgiving to all who plan to celebrate the holiday today.
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