ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Alice's Restaurant: Historical anti-war album

Updated on June 10, 2015

Arlo Guthrie's anti-Vietnam song from the 1960s

I wonder how many people today remember this song? Until a couple of years ago, I had more or less forgotten about it - even though I'd owned it (on vinyl) way back when.

Then I was reminded a couple of years ago when, of all things, I was at our local farmer's market. One of the vendors, a lovely chap called Jim, was playing his guitar.

Suddenly, I was back in the 1960s

Jim and I talked about the song and its importance at the time. It seems such a shame that it's now a forgotten period-piece, we decided. It was more than just a protest song.

Vietnam protests songs

There were hundreds over the years. But Alice's Restaurant was different for many of us. It was funny, it was politically incorrect and it had the supreme irony. Arlo Guthrie recounts how he was drafted, but not allowed to join the army, because of his criminal record.

Littering on Thanksgiving

The song is more of a monologue, set to guitar music, and lasts for the whole side of the album - maybe just under twenty minutes. Set in 1965, eighteen year old Guthrie visits his friend Alice for Thanksgiving dinner. To do her a favour he takes her garbage to the local dump but oh dear, it's closed for the holiday. Undaunted, Arlo dumps the garbage elsewhere. And later, he's arrested for it, fined a grand total of $50 and made to clean up the mess.

The draft

He then describes how he was drafted and went for medical inspections (which is a very funny section of the song) and how finally, he is asked if he's ever been arrested. When he tells the officer that he has, he's asked if he's ever been to court, which of course he had. Because of this, he was (happily) refused admittance into the army. He avoided Vietnam.

Not moral enough to join the army

Now, Guthrie really goes to town in the song. He's not moral enough to kill, burn and destroy. Dropping litter, it seems, precludes him. This isn't lost on Arlo and hence, today we have Alice's Restaurant to remind us about the futility, irony and utter ridiculousness of the Vietnam war.

It should be in every music collection - we must not forget

Alice's Restaurant: The Massacree Revisited (30th Anniversary Edition)
Alice's Restaurant: The Massacree Revisited (30th Anniversary Edition)

Thirty years later, Arlo Guthrie made an anniversary edition. As you can see, the cover shows him in the same pose but looking just a little older! I haven't heard this but the Amazon reviews are excellent. It has additional material too.


The video that you see below will give you some idea about the song and the way that Arlo Guthrie was able to satirise his experiences.

Luckily for us, most of us didn't go through the draft selection process in order to be sent to the Vietnam war.

Because I haven't, then I cannot say with any accuracy that the video below is a precise picture of what went on when young men were inspected to discover their suitability for raping, looting and pillaging.

Somehow it seems believable to me. Oh well,maybe a little exaggerated! What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.

Two other products

These might also interest you. Apocalypse Now is the classic film about the situation in Vietnam. It's very different to Alice's Restaurant although some might see similarities in the way that the subject is treated.

There are many people today who remember the horrors of this war. There are many who actually experienced it. As it has now become a classic, it's an important part of my own DVD collection.

Alice's Restaurant
Alice's Restaurant

For the complete set, there is also a movie of the song. I didn't care as much for the film (I loved the song so much) but it gets good reviews and is certainly a period piece. At time of writing it is no longer produced but new and used examples are available.

Apocalypse Now 2-Film Set [Blu-ray]
Apocalypse Now 2-Film Set [Blu-ray]

Almost by way of contrast, this is the classic Vietnamese war movie. If you've seen this as many times as I have, you think about it every time you hear a helicopter or hear music by the Doors.

Just as Alice's Restaurant tells us a great deal about the war and the times, so does this unforgettable movie. A must.


© 2013 Jackie Jackson


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @grannysage: Hi grannysage - it's lovely to meet someone who feels the same way! I love the group W segment in the movie. I like it when we 'old hippies' talk in code and youngsters don't understand :)

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: Thank you for dropping by!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My husband and I are known to break into a chorus of Alice's Restaurant at a drop of the hat. And since our last name is Wallace, we usually say "I going to go sit on the group W bench." Young people today have no idea what we are talking about. Great album and the movie is good too.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Well done, thanks for sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)