What is the significance of Alice & the Restaurant (in the song)

As I see it, the song is about two incidents: 1) the arrest for littering (& exagerated response by the cops), and 2) the impact this “criminal history” had when Guthrie subsequently went before the draft board.

The part Alice herself played is very minor - she hosted Guthrie at the Thanksgiving dinner, it was her garbage that he illegally dumped, and she bailed him out of jail.

But the song is titled “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and repeatedly states that “this is a song about Alice … and the restaurant”. And the protest song that he proposes singing when summoned to the draft is all about Alice & the restaurant: “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant …”.

Is there some meaning to this that I’m missing? Or is the pointlessness of it the whole point?

… except for Alice. You remember Alice? This is a song about Alice. And the Restaurant.

It’s funny because he says it’s a song about Alice but she’s actually not that important in the narrative of the song

The funny thing is that both incidents are true. Including the 27 8x10 color glossies and the judge with a Seeing Eye Dog.

He went to Alice’s Restaurant and it’s the story of events that ensued as a result of that visit. It’s actually about the war in Vietnam, but it’s a good setup to get people interested and receptive to the message. Maybe Alice represents the simple life we knew in this country before the war or something like that, but you’re asking what does pie have to do with the day the music died.

“Massacree” is a colloquialism for “Goat Rope”, “Fubared”, “Snafued” or “Clusterfuck”.

The point of everything is the protest - “The Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement”:

It’s a song about Alice, who lives in an abandoned church, but gives the world’s best thanksgiving dinners. It’s a song about trying to do good and getting it all wrong. It’s a song about how, even when you get it wrong, military stupidity will come in and fuck it all up and somehow that will make it all work out.

It’s a song about how just a few people, standing up to stupidity, becomes a movement and how the movement gives thanks, with their friends, in an unused church.

Since I know it will come up, here’s what Arlo had to say about the word, “faggots”, in a recentish interview -

I thought he was correct. He was saying what people would think at the time, and that’s probably what plenty of people at the time would think.

Alice?! Who the frack is Alice?

Her Yelp reviews suck. That much I know.

I agree. He’s not calling anyone by the name; he’s recounting what the draft board would think.

And the point is to sing the song as a form of resistance to the draft. The subject doesn’t matter – it’s the song itself that indicates your protest.

BTW, the location of the restaurant is noted in Stockbridge, though it hasn’t been one for decades.

Forget Alice. The important character nobody talks about is Fasha the dog.

It was a hell of a restaurant, you know? You could get anything you wanted there! Well, except Alice.

He probably had the song and the words to the song hanging around mentally ever since he wrote and recorded them for a radio spot for Alice’s restaurant. Though the words would have been different because Alice’s Restaurant wasn’t the name of the restaurant, it was just the name of the song. That’s why he called it “Alice’s Restaurant”. What else was he going to name those two interconnected stories told to that musical background?

I believe I recall him saying the infamous draft physical took place in 1965, which was before LBJ’s escalation of troops in Viet Nam; a more innocent time when a mere minor misdemeanor conviction and a bad attitude could get one a 4-F classification.

But that’s not what he was here to tell you about.
He was here to talk about the draft.

It’s absurdist, it mirrors the absurdity of having to prove that you’re moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after being a litter bug.

After looking through Wikipedia, I suspect the answer has to do with this:

I’m guessing that the earlier versions of the song focused more heavily on Alice and the restaurant. And that the restaurant was depicted as a free and easy anything-goes place (where “you can do anything you want”), and thus the antithesis of the overly restrictive and illogical rules-oriented establishment being mocked in describing both the over-the-top response to the littering and the draft process approach to prior “criminal” history.

So in that context, walking into the shrink and hummin’ a few bars of “you can do anything you want at Alice’s restaurant” was an expression of defiance for establishment rules and power. In the final version the role of Alice and the restaurant was edited down a lot, but the refrain remained.

I’m not sure if it changes what you said up there, but the chorus is ‘you can GET anything you want’, not ‘you can do anything you want’.

Well it doesn’t fit in quite as well, which is probably why I subconsciously changed it. :o

But I think the general idea still holds.

Possibly a drug reference, but I tend to think it’s a meaningless line and merely sets up the ‘Excepting Alice’ aside down the line.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head since this thread appeared. 24 years indeed.

Not a drug reference. Alice was an early resident of the town of Eureka. She actually opened Cafe Diem and her son Vincent took over running it by the time the series aired.