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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.
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.
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