Friday, February 02, 2007

Your Musical Education - Arlo Guthrie

Before we start, I just love Arlo Guthrie.
Son of the famous American folk hero Woody Guthrie Arlo played at Woodstock and shortly after that I was introduced to his music by a more hippy friend and I've followed him on and off ever since.

And so it was quite by accident or coincidence or syncronisation that when I moved to Whitley Bay in 1978 I happened to live in a pub which was right opposite an American stylee diner that called itself Alices Restaurant and as every devotee of Arlo Guthrie knows, this is also the name of his most infamous song.

Its at least twenty minutes long and there is a recording of Arlo singing it on YouTube, right here, but don't watch it just yet, its eighteen minutes long on that recording and theres a better track to listen to first..., instead you should click right here to watch Arlo and Emmylou Harris sing one of his songs "Deportee", it was performed for a TV tribute to his father Woody Guthrie and is superbly appropriate as its exactly the sort of dirt poor immigrant, often illegally immigrant, farm worker song that he wrote and sung about, with a tragic twist at the end - and its especially gorgeous with Emmylou Harris harmonising.

But back to Alices Restaurant, now is the time to click the link and have a listen to at least some of it - its a long, long, funny, mostly narrated story based on a true incident, far too long to reproduce the lyrics, but here's the first five minutes worth (or so)..

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

This song is called "Alice's Restaurant." It's about Alice, and the restaurant, but "Alice's Restaurant" is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name of the song. That's why I call the song "Alice's Restaurant."

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago... 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, in the bell tower with her husband Ray and Facha, the dog.

And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of room downstairs where the pews used to be, and havin' all that room (seein' as how they took out all the pews), they decided that they didn't have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up here and found all the garbage in there and we decided that 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 microbus, 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 sayin', "This dump is closed on Thanksgiving," and we'd never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes, we drove off into the sunset lookin' for another place to put the garbage.

We didn't find one till we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road was another fifteen-foot cliff, and at the bottom of the cliff was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile was better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up, we decided to throw ours down. That's what we did.

Drove back to the church, had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, went to sleep, and 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 a envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage and I 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." After speakin' to Obie for about forty-five minutes on the telephone, we finally arrived at the truth of the matter and he said that we had to go down and pick up the garbage, and also had to go down and speak to him at the Police Officer Station. So we got in the red VW microbus with the shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the Police Officer Station.

Now, friends, there was only one of two things that Obie could've done at the Police Officer Station, and the first was that he could've given us a medal for bein' so brave and honest on the telephone (which wasn't very likely, and we didn't expect it), and the other thing was that he could've bawled us out and told us never to be seen drivin' garbage around in the vicinity again, which is what we expected.

But when we got to the Police Officer Station, there was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon, and we was both immediately arrested, handcuffed, and I said, "Obie, I can't pick up the garbage with these here handcuffs on." He said: "Shut up kid, and get in the back of the patrol car."

And that's what we did . . . sat in the back of the patrol car, and drove to the quote scene of the crime unquote.

I wanna tell you 'bout the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where this is happenin'. They got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the scene of the crime, there was five police officers and three police cars, bein' the biggest crime of the last fifty years and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it.

And they was usin' up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hangin' around the Police Officer Station. They was takin' plaster tire tracks, footprints, dog-smellin' prints and they took twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin' what each one was, to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner, the southwest corner . . .
and that's not to mention the aerial photography!

After the ordeal, we went back to the jail. Obie said he was gonna put us in a cell.

He said: "Kid, I'm gonna put you in a cell. I want your wallet and your belt."
I said, "Obie, I can understand your wantin' my wallet, so I don't have any money to spend in the cell, but what do you want my belt for?" and he said, "Kid, we don't want any hangin's." I said, "Obie, did you think I was gonna hang myself for litterin'?"

Obie said he was makin' sure, and, friends, Obie was, 'cause he took out the toilet seat so I couldn't hit myself over the head and drown, and he took out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars, roll the toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape. Obie was makin' sure.

Theres loads of other good Arlo Guthrie stuff on YouTube, keep searching...

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