The Illustrated Version of “Alice’s Restaurant”: Watch Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic

Alice’s Restaurant. It’s now a Thanksgiving classic, and something of a tradition around here. Recorded in 1967, the 18+ minute counterculture song recounts Arlo Guthrie’s real encounter with the law, starting on Thanksgiving Day 1965. As the long song unfolds, we hear all about how a hippie-bating police officer, by the name of William “Obie” Obanhein, arrested Arlo for littering. (Cultural footnote: Obie previously posed for several Norman Rockwell paintings, including the well-known painting, “The Runaway,” that graced a 1958 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.) In fairly short order, Arlo pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge, pays a $25 fine, and cleans up the thrash. But the story isn’t over. Not by a long shot. Later, when Arlo (son of Woody Guthrie) gets called up for the draft, the petty crime ironically becomes a basis for disqualifying him from military service in the Vietnam War. Guthrie recounts this with some bitterness as the song builds into a satirical protest against the war: “I’m sittin’ here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.” And then we’re back to the cheery chorus again: “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant.”

We have featured Guthrie’s classic during past years. But, for this Thanksgiving, we give you the illustrated version. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who plans to celebrate the holiday today.

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Jazz Virtuoso Oscar Peterson Gives Dick Cavett a Dazzling Piano Lesson (1979)

Duke Ellington once called Oscar Peterson the “Maharaja of the Keyboard” for his virtuosity and ability to play any style with seeming ease, a skill he first began to learn as a classically trained child prodigy. Peterson was introduced to Bach and Beethoven by his musician father and older sister Daisy, then drilled in rigorous finger exercises and given six hours a day of practice by his teacher, Hungarian pianist Paul de Marky. “I only first really heard jazz somewhere between the ages of seven and 10,” said the Canadian jazz great. “My older brother Fred, who was actually a better pianist than I was, started playing various new tunes — well they were new for me, anyway…. Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, who frightened me to death with his technique.”

Despite his own prodigious talent, Peterson found Tatum “intimidating,” he told Count Basie in a 1980 interview. He responded to the fear by learning how to play like Tatum, and like everyone else he admired, while adding his own melodic twists to standards and originals. At 14, he won a national Canadian music competition and left school to become a professional musician.




He recorded his first album in 1945 at age 20. “Since his ‘discovery’ in 1947 by Norman Granz,” wrote International Musician in 2002, five years before the pianist’s death, “Peterson has amassed an incredible legacy of recorded work with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Fred Astaire, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker, among countless other greats.”

In the video at the top of the post from the Dick Cavett Show in 1979, Peterson shows off his elegant technique and demonstrates the “stylistic trademarks” of the greats he admired, and that others have heard expressed in his own style. He begins with his albatross, Tatum’s “stride piano,” a style that requires a good deal of left hand articulation and which, done right, can “put the rhythm section out of business,” Cavett jokes. Peterson then shows off the “the two-fingered percussiveness of Nat Cole,” the “lyric octave work of Erroll Garner,” and double octave melody lines, a very difficult two-hand maneuver.

It’s a dazzling lesson that shows, in just a few short minutes, why Peterson became known for his “stunning virtuosity as a soloist,” as one biography notes. In the video above, producer and YouTube personality Rick Beato explains why he thinks Peterson played the “Greatest Solo of All Time” in the 1974 rendition of “Boogie Blues Study” further up. As David Funk, who posted the Cavett video clip to YouTube, puts it, “What more can you say?” To understand why Louis Armstrong called Peterson “the man with four hands,” we simply need to watch him play.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Secrets of Beethoven’s Fifth, the World’s Most Famous Symphony

Revered by music lovers of temperaments as varied as Peanuts’ Schroeder and A Clockwork Orange’s AlexLudwig van Beethoven is one of the most celebrated composers in the Western classical music canon.

Symphony No. 5 in C minor is surely one of his most recognized, and frequently performed works, thanks in large part to its dramatic opening motif —

dun-dun-dun-DAH!

Music educator Hanako Sawada’s entertaining TED-Ed lesson, animated by Yael Reisfeld above, delves into the story behind this symphony, “one of the most explosive pieces of music ever composed.”




Middle and high school music teachers will be glad to know the creators lean into the heightened emotions of the piece, depicting the composer as a tortured genius whose piercing gaze is bluer than Game of Thrones’ Night King.

Beethoven was already enjoying a successful reputation at the time of the symphony’s 1808 premiere, but not because he toiled in the service of religion or wealthy patrons like his peers.

Instead, he was an early-19th century bad ass, prioritizing self-expression and pouring his emotions into compositions he then sold to various music publishers.

With the Fifth, he really shook off the rigid structures of prevailing classical norms, embracing Romanticism in all its glorious turmoil.

The famous opening motif is repeated to the point of obsession:

Throughout the piece, the motif is passed around the orchestra like a whisper, gradually reaching more and more instruments until it becomes a roar.

Besotted teenagers, well acquainted with this feeling, are equipped with the internal trombones, piccolos, and contrabassoons of the sort that make the piece even more urgent in feel.

Just wait until they get hold of Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved letters, written a few years after the symphony, when the hearing loss he was wrestling with had progressed to near total deafness.

Whether or not it was the composer (and not his biographer) who characterized the central motif as the sound of “Fate knocking at the door,” it’s an apt, and riveting notion.

Take a quiz, participate in a guided discussion, and customize Hanako Sawada’s lesson, “The Secrets of the World’s Most Famous Symphony,” here.

Listen to the symphony in its entirety below.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday. 

Legendary DJ John Peel Makes a List of His 20 Favorite Albums

Image by Zetkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Before there were influencers, there was John Peel. The BBC radio DJ and journeyman music writer’s tastes helped define listening habits for generations — from his early championing of Pink Floyd and Captain Beefheart to his early championing of The Smiths and Nirvana, to… well, most everything he played, wrote about and recorded in his legendary John Peel sessions from the 1960s until his death in 2004.

For someone with such influence, Peel had a singularly humble attitude about his own importance and that of music tastemakers generally. In a 1970 interview for Radio Times, “Peel plays down the role of DJs as celebrities,” notes the John Peel Wiki, “and is quoted as saying among other things, ‘Some disc jockeys don’t realise the essential insignificance of their role.’”




His was an attitude shared by few in the music business. One person who comes to mind, producer and musician Steve Albini — an early champion of too many bands to name — likes to similarly exempt himself from the process, treating his opinions about music as incidental to the vital experience of making music itself. In an interview the year after Peel’s death, Albini ruminated on this quality in Peel:

Before he died, John Peel said something that I thought was really profound. He said when he gets a record from somebody and he doesn’t like it, he assumes that it’s his problem and that the band would not have made that record if there wasn’t something valuable about it.

Of course, John Peel had his opinions about music — once saying in 1978, for example, that he wished the Rolling Stones had broken up in 1965. He even had his opinions about Steve Albini, whose brutal three-piece 80s band Big Black ranked at number 15 for their Songs About Fuc&ing on a list Peel made of his 20 favorite albums. The list, below, should be read with all kinds of caveats.

In no way would Peel ever assert that these 20 records are the “20 best” of anything. These are the albums that rose to the top for him, for reasons he declined to specify, at a particular point in time 1997 when The Guardian asked him for his opinion. Peel himself found these exercises “terribly self-indulgent” notes Jon Dennis in brief commentary on each album on the list. Narrowing down one’s favorites was a particularly painful experience for someone who listened to so much music, and Peel didn’t value his own tastes over those of his listeners.

For example, in his “Festive 50,” a fifty-song roundup of his listeners’ top three songs of the year each Christmas, Peel resisted the urge to insert his picks and counterbalance what he saw as an overabundance of “white boys with guitars.” (Peel was a big promoter of reggae bands like Misty in Roots, who come in at number 5 below, as well as various other world musics on his radio show.) He admitted that coming up with his three top songs in any given year was close to impossible: “I couldn’t get any fewer than a list of 250.”

1. Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica (1969)
2. Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
3. Ramones: The Ramones (1976)
4. Pulp: Different Class (1995)
5. Misty In Roots: Live At Counter Eurovision 79 (1979)
6. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
7. Smiths: The Smiths (1984)
8. Neil Young: Arc Weld (1991)
9. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (1967)
10. Wawali Bonané: Enzenzé
11. Pink Floyd: Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
12. Dreadzone: Second Light (1995)
13. Four Brothers: Makorokoto (1988)
14. Dave Clarke: Dave Archive One (1996)
15. Big Black: Songs About Fucking (1987)
16. PJ Harvey: Dry (1992)
17. Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
18. Elastica: Elastica (1995)
19. Hole: Live Through This (1994)
20. Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones (1964)

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Elegant 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

When the Romans pushed their way north into the German provinces, they built (circa 90 AD) The Saalburg, a fort that protected the boundary between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribal territories. At its peak, 2,000 people lived in the fort and the attached village. It remained active until around 260 AD.

Somewhere during the 19th century, The Saalburg was rediscovered and excavated, then later fully reconstructed. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses the Saalburg Museum, which contains many Roman relics, including a 2,000 year old shoe, apparently found in a local well.




If you think the Italians have mastered the craft of making shoes, well, they don’t have much on their ancestors. According to the site Romans Across Europe, the Romans  “were the originators of the entire-foot-encasing shoe.” The site continues:

There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women. Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole. Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like patterns. Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. Some very dainty women’s and children’s shoes still had thick nailed soles.

The image above, which puts all of the Roman’s shoe-making skill on display, comes to us via Reddit and imgur.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in July 2016.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

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Elvis Costello’s Musician Father (and Doppelgänger) Performing in 1963

If you were an English boy growing up in the 1960s, and your dad met the Queen mum, you’d come away with some pretty heavy duty bragging rights.

What if your dad didn’t just meet her, but commanded her attention for a full three minutes… an event you witnessed on the telly, along with 21.2 million others?

That’s what happened to young Declan Patrick McManus, or Elvis Costello as he’s more commonly known these days.

Unfortunately, his musician father Ross’s calypso-inflected, Trini Lopez-inspired rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” at the Queen’s annual Royal Variety Performance was overshadowed by another act in the evening’s line up: The Beatles.

This was the performance where John Lennon famously solicited the audience’s participation on “Twist and Shout“:

For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.

If you were an English boy growing up in the 1960s, and your dad met the Queen mum, you’d come away with some pretty heavy duty bragging rights.

What if your dad didn’t just meet her, but commanded her attention for a full three minutes… an event you witnessed on the telly, along with 21.2 million others?

That’s what happened to young Declan Patrick McManus, or Elvis Costello as he’s more commonly known these days.

Unfortunately, his musician father Ross’s calypso-inflected, Trini Lopez-inspired rendition of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” at the Queen’s annual Royal Variety Performance was overshadowed by another act in the evening’s line up: The Beatles.

This was the performance where John Lennon famously solicited the audience’s participation on “Twist and Shout“:

For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.

So, Ross McManus played for the Queen Mum (and Princess Margaret) and all little Declan got was a great anecdote for his 2016 memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink and a thoughtful souvenir:

Eventually I couldn’t pretend that I really cared whether he’d… shaken hands with the Queen Mum. I blurted out:

“Did you actually meet The Beatles?”

It had obviously been a long night or an early morning, as my Dad wasn’t that talkative. He mumbled something about them being very nice lads. Then he reached into a jacket slung over the back of his chair and pulled out a sheet of thin airmail paper and handed it to me.

I unfolded it, and there were the signatures of all four of The Beatles on one page. I’d seen reproductions of their signatures in enough magazines and fan club literature to know that these appeared to be the real thing.

The ink seemed barely dry.

What I did next will bring tears to the eyes of those who make a fetish of such objects, but I had only a small autograph book and the paper was too large to be mounted in it. 

I carefully, if not so very carefully, cut around each of the signatures, lopping off the e of the “The” in “The Beatles” and pasting the four irregular scraps of paper into my album.

McManus the Elder took another crack at “If I Had a Hammer” when he and other members of the Joe Loss Orchestra were invited to reprise their royal performance in the 1965 short The Mood Manexcerpted at the top of this page.

Clearly, the acorn didn’t fall far from this tree!

Father and son seem more like twins here:

the horn-rimmed specs…

The vibrato…

That vintage style!

(Speaking of which, Costello confides that his father was obliged to wear long johns under his off-white suit “after the television director claimed that his flesh could be detected through the thin material … under the television lights, which would be bound to scandalize the royal party.”)

The two also shared a willingness to experiment with assumed names. Ross McManus found success in Australia with a cover of The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” as “Day Costello” — surname compliments of his grandmother’s maiden name. (Other handles include “Hal Prince” and “Frank Bacon and the Baconeers.”)

Elvis Costello spent enough time in his old man’s orbit to recognize the disembodied hands playing the conga drums in the opening shot shot of McManus’s “If I Had a Hammer“ — Bill Brown’s, taking a bit of a busman’s holiday from the baritone saxophone.

And he acknowledges his own persona’s debt to his dad, citing the section where  he “lip-synchs the hell out of the number, miming ‘hammer of justice’ for all it’s worth”:

The close-ups that come on the repeated line, “It’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters” are eerie to behold for the similarity of our facial expression at about this age, and especially when singing particular words.

Where my Dad holds the advantage over me is in his dance moves. 

Those are steps that I am yet to master.

Costello also notes that his father gave him a bit of a professional leg up in 1973, when he got him hired for backing vocals on a musical ad for R. Whites Lemonade:

For some reason, the producer asked my Dad to deliver the song in a mock Elvis Presley voice, while for the background part, they wanted “R. Whites” punched out so that it sounded like the “All right” on a Swinging Blue Jeans record. I suppose the advertising people thought the kids would dig it… given that my Dad and I could easily approximate a suitably nasal Mersey sound, we cut the parts in a couple of takes. It wasn’t exactly the big time, but there was still a thrill to hearing your voice come back off the tape, even if you were singing something farcical. 

The ad made a lasting impression. If there’s a club for British people who watched TV in the 70’s “secret lemonade drinker” may well be the password. (Costello, understandably, was not pleased when a tabloid’s brass decided it made a fitting headline for his talented, well-known father’s obituary: “Secret Lemonade Drinker Dies.”)

The first Secret Lemonade Drinker ad’s popularity justified various sequels over the years, particularly when fans got hip to the 19-year-old Costello’s involvement.

He was, in fact, more involved than many would realize.

As he recalls in his memoir, the original recording session turned into an impromptu casting session for an alternate, albeit far harder to find online, take:

The ad men took a look around the studio and decided to cast this second version of the commercial from the musicians on the session. The drummer and hippie guitar player certainly looked the part, but the pianist and bass player were older more conservatively dressed and didn’t really fit the bill. Given our then more fashionable hairstyles, my Dad and I were recruited to mime the keyboard and bass parts, and we spent the day taking and retaking the thirty second clip, lip-synching the “R. Whites / All right” background part with as much animation as we could manage by take forty six.

Behold!

Costello’s relationship with his father — also the only son of a musician — is a prime topic of his 688-page memoir.

It’s not only easy, but worthwhile, to truffle up online evidence of Ross’s recording career. There’s even a rare, early 80s duet between father and son…

For some intel on Costello’s mother Lilian’s influence, read his moving tribute from earlier this year, written shortly after her death.

h/t to reader Greg Kotis.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash

YouTube Originals presents The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash:

Johnny Cash stands among the giants of 20th century American life. But his story remains tangled in mystery and myth. This documentary, created with the full cooperation of the Cash estate and rich in recently discovered archival materials, brings Cash the man out from behind the legend. Taking the remarkable Folsom Prison recording as a central motif and featuring interviews with family and celebrated collaborators, the film explores the artistic victories, the personal tragedies, the struggles with addiction, and the spiritual pursuits that colored Johnny Cash’s life.

The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More. Enjoy!

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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8 Hours of David Bowie’s Historic 1980 Floor Show: Complete & Uncut Footage

Bowie completists rejoice. Eight hours of footage from his 1973 television program “The 1980 Floor Show,” have found their way to YouTube, including, Boing Boing notes, “uncut footage… multiple takes, backstage moments, and all of the dance rehearsals.” The show — actually an episode of the NBC series The Midnight Special curated by Bowie — lived up to its title (itself a pun on “1984,” the opening song of the broadcast), with elaborate dance numbers, major costume changes, and several guest performers: The Troggs, Amanda Lear, Carmen, and — most importantly — Marianne Faithfull, in career free-fall at the time but also in top form for this cabaret-style variety show.

When Midnight Special producer Burt Sugarman approached Bowie about doing the hour-long show, the singer agreed on the condition that he could have complete creative control. He chose to hold rehearsals and performances at London’s Marquee Club, where the Rolling Stones had filmed Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. The audience consisted of 200 young fans drawn from the Bowie fan club. Faithfull was “actually invited as one of the reserve acts,” notes Jack Whatley at Far Out, “ready to be called upon should someone else drop out.”




“The show was heavily advertised in the US press in the run up to the broadcast,” noted Bowie 75 in 2018, “but has never been shown outside the US or officially released,” though bootlegs circulated for years. Shooting took place over three days in late October, just a few months after Bowie played his final show as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon Theatre, cryptically announcing at the end, “not only is it the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do.” Bowie then went on to release Aladdin Sane and his covers record Pin-Ups the following year, dropping the Ziggy character entirely.

But Bowie brought Ziggy back, at least in costume, for one last gig in “The 1980 Floor Show,” wearing some of the outfits Kansai Yamamoto designed for the Ziggy Stardust tours and still sporting the signature spiked red mullet he would continue to wear as his dystopian Halloween Jack persona on 1974’s Diamond Dogs. “The 1980 Floor Show” promoted songs from Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups while visually representing the transition from Bowie’s space alien visitor persona to a different kind of outsider — an alien in exile, just like the character he played a few years later in Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. As Maria Matheos writes at Hasta:

Ziggy no longer played guitar: Bowie had metamorphosed into Aladdin Sane. Parading across the stage in red platform boots and a patent-leather black and white balloon leg jumpsuit, referred to by designer Yamamoto as the ‘Tokyo pop’ jumpsuit, Bowie sought to assault the senses of his audience. Completely over the top? Yes. Verging on a parody of excess? Possibly. Would he have wanted us to take him seriously? He certainly did not (take himself seriously).

With Aladdin Sane, Bowie gave us a hyperbolic extension of his prior alien doppelganger; adding that his character, a pun on ‘A Lad Insane’, represented “Ziggy under the influence of America.”

See how Bowie constructed that new, and short-lived, persona from the materials of his former glam superstar character, and see the revelation that was Marianne Faithfull. The singer performed her 1964 hit, written by The Rolling Stones, “As Tears Go By,” solo. But the highlight of the show, and of her mid-seventies period, was the duet of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” with which she and Bowie closed the show. “The costumes of the pair are magical.” Whatley writes,” with Bowie “in full Ziggy attire… aka his ‘Angel of Death’ costume—while Faithfull has on a nun’s habit that was open at the back.”

Bowie reportedly introduced the song with the tossed-off line, “This isn’t anything serious, it’s just a bit of fun. We’ve hardly even rehearsed it.” You can scroll through the 8 hours of footage at the top to see those rehearsals, and so many more previously unavailable Bowie moments caught on film.

via Boing Boing

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David Bowie on Why It’s Crazy to Make Art–and We Do It Anyway (1998)

 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

 

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