Alice's Restaurant

Radio Times
Review by:
Tony Peters

Barnsley is a fair few miles from small-town America, and in 1967 the cultural gap must have seemed like light years. Distance, however, didn’t stop Arlo Guthrie’s 18-minute talking blues Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (a savage satirical poke at the rules surrounding the draft system for Vietnam) resonating with 12-year-old Yorkshire lad Ian McMillan.

More than 40 years on, Ian makes a pilgrimage to the locations in the song and meets those featured in Guthrie’s lyrics, including the eponymous Alice. McMillan is perfect for this sort of stuff, a man who effortlessly conveys his enthusiasm for the subject, with a terrific broadcaster’s voice.

About this programme

As America prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving on November 22, Ian McMillan explores the unique role Arlo Guthrie's 1960s ballad Alice's Restaurant plays in the festivities. The Barnsley-born poet reveals how hearing Guthrie's 18-minute song at the age of 12 marked his first encounter with small-town America and opposition to the war in Vietnam, and visits the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where the song was set. She also meets Alice M Brock, the woman whose eatery provided the inspiration for the tune.

Cast and crew


Ian McMillan


Lucy Lunt