Alice's Restaurant

Alice's Restaurant

Infobox Song
Name = Alice's Restaurant

|center|220px|The original 1967 album
Border =
Caption = Album cover for the original 1967 album, "Alice's Restaurant"
Artist = Arlo Guthrie
Album = Alice's Restaurant
Released = 1967
Recorded =
Length = 00:18:20

"Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (commonly referred to simply as "Alice's Restaurant") is one of singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie's most prominent works, a musical monologue based on a true story that began on Thanksgiving Day 1965, and which inspired a 1969 movie of the same name.

The song lasts 18 minutes and 20 seconds, occupying the entire A-side of Guthrie's 1967 debut record album, titled "Alice's Restaurant" (Warner Reprise Records). It is notable as a satirical, first-person account of 1960s counterculture, in addition to being a hit song in its own right. The final part of the song is an encouragement for the listeners to sing along, to resist the draft, and to end war.

The song

Guthrie's talk-song, a satirical, deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft and widespread anti-hippie prejudice, recounts a true but comically exaggerated Thanksgiving adventure. "Alice" was restaurant-owner Alice M. Brock , who in 1964, using $2,000 supplied by her mother, bought a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Alice and her husband Ray would live. It was here rather than at the restaurant, which came later, where the song's Thanksgiving dinners were actually held.

On that Thanksgiving, November 25, 1965, the 18-year-old Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins, 19, were arrested by Officer William "Obie" Obanhein for illegally dumping some of Alice's garbage after discovering that the dump was closed for the holiday. Two days later they pleaded guilty in court before a blind judge, James E. Hannon; the song describes to ironic effect the arresting officer's frustration at the judge being unable to see the "27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us". In the end, Guthrie and Robbins were fined $50 and told to pick up their garbage.

The song goes on to describe Guthrie's being called up for the draft, and the surreal bureaucracy at the New York City induction center on Whitehall Street. Because of Guthrie's criminal record for littering, he is first sent to the Group W Bench (where convicts wait) then outright rejected as unfit for military service. The ironic punchline of the story's denouement is that, in the words of Guthrie, "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 bein' a litterbug?"

The final part of the song is where Arlo tells the audience that should they find themselves facing the draft they should walk into the military psychiatrist's office and sing, "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant," and walk out. Thus is born, "the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar." [ [ Lyrics, Alice's Restaurant] at [, Official Arlo Guthrie web site] ]

"Alice's Restaurant" is regularly played on Thanksgiving by many radio stations, especially in the New York City and Boston areas. It is not often otherwise aired, due to its length. The original album rose to #17 on the "Billboard" chart. [ [ "Reprise Album Discography, Part 3: R/RS-6200 to RS-6399 (1966-1970)", by David Edwards, Patrice Eyries, and Mike Callahan] ]

Guthrie revised and updated "Alice's Restaurant" years later to protest Reagan-era policies, but this second version has not been released on a commercial recording.

Guthrie later wrote a follow-up recounting how he learned that Richard Nixon had owned a copy of the song, and he jokingly suggested that this explained the famous 18½ minute gap in the Watergate tapes. Guthrie rerecorded his entire debut album for his 1997 CD "Alice's Restaurant" also known as "Alice's Restaurant: The Massacree Revisited", on the Rising Son music label, which includes this expanded version.

In the 1990s, Guthrie appeared on a Thanksgiving edition of the public radio series
Car Talk, recorded before a live audience. In a comedy sketch, Guthrie asks Click and Clackif they can fix his VW microbus. As he enters the waiting room, Guthrie says, "Hey! OfficerObie! What are you doing here?"

The real restaurant and people

"Alice" was restaurant owner Alice M. Brock, who with husband Ray Brock lived in a former church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where the song's Thanksgiving dinners were actually held. She was a painter and designer, while Ray was an architect and woodworker. Both worked at a nearby private academy, the music- and art-oriented Stockbridge School, from which Guthrie (then of the Queens, New York City neighborhood of Howard Beach) had graduated. As of 2005, Alice Brock lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and owns an art studio and gallery at 69 Commercial Street. [ [ Alice Brock official site] ] She illustrated the 2004 children's book "Mooses Come Walking", written by Guthrie.

Alice's restaurant (formally known as the "Back Room Rest", named for its location down an alley behind a grocery store at 40 Main Street in Stockbridge, Massachusetts) was roughly six miles from the church — though true to the song, it was "just a half-a-mile from the railroad track". Formerly Maluphy's Restaurant, it ran the length of the building from front to back along the side alley. Owned by Alice for only a year before she and Ray divorced, it was, as of 2005, Theresa's Stockbridge Cafe, where a hand-painted sign indicates its former identity. The building's front as of 2006 is The Main Street Cafe.

The song and a subsequent movie (see below) made both Alice and Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein ("Officer Obie"), who arrested Guthrie, marginally famous.

The Church, originally built as the St. James Chapel in 1829, the structure was enlarged in 1866 and renamed Trinity Church. Ray and Alice Brock purchased the property in 1964 and made it their home. The building has had several owners since the early 1970s. [ [|Arlo Guthrie's website.] ]

In 1991, Guthrie bought the church that had served as Alice and Ray Brock's former home, at 4 Van Deusenville Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and converted it to the Guthrie Center, a nondenominational, interfaith meeting place. [ [ The Guthrie Center official site] ]

The church's exterior is covered with white vinyl siding with the original cornerstone dedications still intact. There are two public entrances, a ramp for disabled guests on the side of the building and another consisting of two large wooden doors. The entrance from the side leads directly into the chapel. The front entrance leads into a living room with couches and a kitchen to the left. Bathrooms are located down a straight hallway to the right. Above this hallway is a sign that says " One God - Many Forms One River - Many Streams One People - Many Faces One Mother - Many Children -Ma".

In the main chapel area there is a stage for performances set up with microphone and other audio inputs. On the stage, in the rear center, Officer Obie's chair sits as a reminder of the arrest. In the rear of the chapel there is a set of stairs and a loft which holds a shrine dedicated to multiple religions and also contains a viewing loft. Also, there is a door that leads to a set of private rooms in which Alice and Ray once lived.

In recent years, the Guthrie Center has become a popular folk music venue, hosting the Troubadour Concert series annually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Musical guests have included John Gorka, Jaane Doe, The Highwaymen and, of course, Arlo Guthrie. The annual "Garbage Trail Walk", retracing the steps of Arlo and folksinger Rick Robbins (as told in the song), raises money for Huntington's Disease research. On Thanksgiving, the Center hosts a "Thanksgiving dinner that can't be beat" for people in need from the local community.

The movie

The song was adapted into the 1969 movie "Alice's Restaurant", directed and co-written by Arthur Penn and starring Guthrie as himself, Pat Quinn as Alice Brock and James Broderick as Ray Brock, with the real Alice making a cameo appearance. The movie version of "Alice's Restaurant" was released on August 19, 1969, a few days after Guthrie appeared at the Woodstock Festival.


* Lee, Laura, "Arlo, Alice & Anglicans: The Lives of a New England Church" (Berkshire House Publishers, 2000; W.W. Norton, 2000 paperback ISBN 1-58157-010-4)
* [ Lyrics] , on Arlo Guthrie's web site
* [ All Music entry for "Alice's Restaurant" (1967)]
* [ All Music entry for "Alice's Restaurant" (1997)]
* [ Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities' Mass Moments: "Arlo Guthrie Convicted of Littering, November 28, 1965"]

External links

* [ NPR: Arlo Guthrie, Remembering "Alice's Restaurant"]
* [ World Music Central: Arlo Guthire]
* [ "Alice's Restaurant": "The New York Times" (Aug. 25, 1969)] : movie review by Vincent Canby
* [ New York Times article (July 18, 1967, p. 30)] about the original performances at Newport Folk Festival in 1967 (also reprinted in the CD liner notes).

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