It was 45 years ago this this month – 1967 – that Arlo Guthrie's musical account of how his crime, littering, led to his rejection by the U.S. Army was released under its official name, Alice's Restaurant Massacree.
I remember it well.
Living in Houston at the time, I produced my then-husband's radio talk show, the only one on what was otherwise a 21-hour-a-day rock-and-roll station. That meant a large portion of our programming, the part not political, consisted of musical talk and musical guests which, at one time or another, included Arlo Guthrie and the restaurant proprietor herself, Alice Brock.
We played the song a lot at home (it was also the year of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that was in equal rotation on our personal turntable) and it wasn't long before I knew Guthrie's monologue by heart.
In the years since then I have occasionally listened again but not all that often. Nevertheless, to my surprise, I can still sing along (well, I suppose I mean talk along) without a hitch.
”Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, it was two years ago on Thanksgiving when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant. She lives in the church nearby the restaurant...”
How'd I do? I wish my short-term memory (you know, 10 seconds walking from bedroom to kitchen) worked as well.
The reason I discovered I still know the whole monologue is that on Friday, TGB reader Bev Carney sent a link to a story last week on CBS News about the song's 45th anniversary being this year and an interview with Arlo. Here it is:
It surprised me to learn that the song has become a Thanksgiving anthem, but it makes sense and I wonder how, through all the years I've been posting some kind of banal holiday image here for Thanksgiving, I'd never thought to play Alice's Restaurant for us instead. I'm pretty sure that's what I'll do from now on.
In case you missed it this year, here's the original 18-plus minutes – a fine, ol' song that nicely captures the feeling of an era that, to me, doesn't seem like so long ago, although it is:
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman: Out Little Girls