The Common Good

Arlo and Alice's Restaurant

At 11 a.m. CST today (Noon EST, 9 a.m. PST), WXRT Radio in Chicago will air, as it does every year on Thanksgiving morning, the complete, 18-minute-34-second original version of Arlo Guthrie's song, "Alice's Restaurant." [Listen live HERE.]

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It is among my most favorite Thanksgiving rituals, right up there with grace before the meal, and a family viewing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles after dessert.

For the uninitiated, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (that's its official name) is a folk classic, an epic musical monologue from Arlo's 1967 album also called "Alice's Restaurant." it tell the mostly-true story of Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 1965 in Stockbridge, Mass., when then-18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were arrested by  police officer William "Obie" Obanhein for illegally dumping garbage at the town dump that was closed for the holiday. Two days later, they pled guilty in court before a blind judge. 

The garbage in question came from the home of Guthrie's friend Alice Brock who with her husband lived in a deconsecrated church she'd bought in 1964 for $2,000, and where the couple would host large Thanksgiving dinners for their friends.

The song-story is a satirical critique of the Vietnam War and was made into a movie of the same name in 1969 that expounded on the story, particularly of Arlo's experience appearing before the military induction board in New York City, where, because of his criminal conviction for littering, he was rejected for military service.

You can hear to Arlo talk about the song and the anti-war movement in an interview with NPR's "All Things Considered" HERE.

Or listen to WXRT's Lin Brehmer tell the "Alice's Restaurant" story HERE.

Below watch Arlo perform his updated version of the classic Thanksgiving tale:


See video

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