You Can Get Anything You Want






Alice’s Restaurant (Pampa, TX)

Arlo Guthrie’s song, Alice’s Restaurant, is really a story with guitar accompaniment. It gets airplay and acknowledgement every year at Thanksgiving because the story takes place on Thanksgiving. But the story has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. The traditional association between the story/song and the holiday is a result of people wanting a holiday song, but not a Christmas song, on the gateway holiday leading into the winter season.

The story is both a commentary on the Vietnam war and on government over-regulation. Ironic that a folk singer should have one song among all the ones he recorded be immortalized over decades of time simply because it mentions Thanksgiving.

I would call this a “cultural rider.” A strong social message delivered under the noses of holiday revelers year after year by tagging itself as a “holiday song.”  Even more astonishing, passing untouched and unmolested by big and powerful media outlets. I don’t think Arlo, or anyone, tried to achieve this; it happened on its own.

But could we use such a technique consciously? You can get anything you want.




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