Remember Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant Massacree?
It's an near-19 minute song in which the protagonist tells the story of how he was arrested for littering. He and a friend brought a pile of rubbish to a dump, but it was closed for Thanksgiving, so they tossed it over a cliff. They were caught, convicted, fined and ordered to pick up the rubbish.
Some time later, when he had been ordered to present himself for the draft (to the Vietnam War – remember that?), he did so, but attempted to get out of it, first by pretending to be unhealthy (he turned up hung-over), and then by pretending to be psychologically ill, resulting in him being praised. So he had to go through with the assessment.
During an interview, he admitted having a conviction, so was required to fill out the form seeking the details. It turned out it disqualified him from joining the army, to "burn women, kids, houses and villages – after bein' a litterbug."
The best part of the song for me has always been…
… and everything was fine and I put down the pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:
("KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?")
If you don't know it, or don't remember it, I think you really should give it a go.
And, as Arlo himself says in the song, "but that's not what I came to tell you about."
Every year in January we renew our television licence. Every year, I turn the page, and every year, there, there on that other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else of the other side, is the following:
Kid! This licence does not authorise any infringement of copyright in the matter received.
I laugh every time, and remember Alice's Restaurant Massacree.
And then I laugh a little more at the thoughts that (a) someone thought it was necessary – or even a good idea – to put that message on the document, (b) someone thought it best to make it so sheepishly prominent and (c) someone thinks there is a concept of authorised infringement of copyright
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