Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Ode to a Restaurant and a Guitar

It's not hard to spot the child of a hippie: they are comfortable with tie-dyed paraphanelia, they show their approbation by saying "I dig," they refer to the Vietnam War as 'Nam.

They also, if the hippie parent truly loved them, have a deep knowledge of the era's music. A.k.a. some of the best music of all time. This here hippie child was raised without full awareness that there was popular music created after 1975 and I thank God for it. My favorite band is, and always has been, the Beatles. I can quote obscure The Hollies and Creedance Clearwater Revival lyrics and understand the profound difference between The Who and The Guess Who. I know the power of The Monkees' theme song.

But out of all of the musical gifts my father gave me, one of the most precious to me is the love I have for a certain folk musician named Arlo Guthrie. Son of famed musician Woody Guthrie, Arlo is superior in every respect, for this humble music lover. Arlo is sassy. Arlo isn't afraid to be funny. Arlo rhymes "pickle" with "motorcycle" (pronounced "motor-sickle"). Arlo sings maybe the most poignant American folk song ever recorded ("City of New Orleans"). Arlo gave us a 20 minute opus entitled "Alice's Restaurant."

This song is really more of a spoken word story set to music, but whatever it is, it is awesome. You've got "the Man" out in full force, Vietnam, VW microbuses, and littering - what more could a mid-60s folk artist hope to cover? It is so awesome that it was turned into a movie, which I have not yet seen. I am a little afraid to see what they've done to it...

Anyways, if you want to see the lyrics, I've linked to full ones in the title below, and I've included the chorus/some of my favorite parts of the story. But if you've never heard this song, do yourself and humanity a favor, and go take a listen. He's performed/recorded it live a few times, but the version I grew up listening to and that I like best is from the original eponymous album (Alice's Restaurant) and is 18 minutes, 37 seconds long. 

Alice's Restaurant
by Arlo Guthrie

This song is called Alice's Restaurant and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, it's just the name of the song, which is why I call the song Alice's Restaurant. 

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW mircobus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump. Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across the dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, so with tears in our eyes, we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the half a ton of garbage.
...didn't get up until the next morning, when we got a phone call from officer Obie. He said, "Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And I said, "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage."
And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station. They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.
We all stood up and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down and we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog. And then at the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice and there wasn't nothing he could do about it.
Came to talk about the draft

I went over to the sergeant, said, "Sergeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself. I mean, I mean, I mean that I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses, and villages after being a litterbug." He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send your fingerprints off to Washington."


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