Outlasting the Blues

One of my most recent CD purchases was Arlo Guthrie’s 1979 Outlasting The Blues. While a 1979 release places this late in the classic rock period, Arlo’s roots are definitely in the 60’s. While I can’t say that I was ever a huge Guthrie fan, OTB was one of my favorites from that period. While relatively unknown, OTB is actually considered by critics to be his best album. It is possibly his most consistent. It’s a very well-produced album, and the songs (in my opinion) are great both musically and lyrically.

The best track on the album probably Which Side, which is a rocky take-off on the old folk song by Florence Reese, Which Side Are You On?. Arlo’s song, not dealing with labor unions, instead mirrors Dylan’s You’ve Got To Serve Somebody, asks the eternal question, “two roads lead from where we are, which side are you on?” The title of the album comes from the last line of cut 3 on the album, Wedding Song, another of my favorites from the CD. Overall, the album is more openly spiritual than anything he ever did, following his conversion to Catholicism.

Arlo says that he always had a spiritual side.

I was a person who always loved God, but that was without knowing who God was. Still, it had always been an interest of mine. I even wrote songs on Alice’s Restaurant that I think of as being vehicles for me to communicate with this nebulous God that I knew was there but that I’d certainly never met face-to-face.”

I recall reading an article around 1980 that talked about his meeting a Franciscan monk on an airplane, if I recall. This monk belonged to a small order (I believe there were 3 of them) that practiced street evangelism. Then one day,

I was standing on my porch, and one of those things happened that I never imagined would happen to me. I don’t know how to explain it, and I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but God showed up in the person of Jesus Christ. He was sort of right in front of me. I knew who he was even though nobody said anything. And not only that, but I knew that he knew everything about me. For about ten minutes – actually, I have no idea how long it was – I felt a love that I knew existed but that I never thought I would be in the midst of. And it penetrated every atom of my being.”

So, he went down to the Catholic Church where his Franciscan friends hung out, and eventually became a third-order Franciscan monk. Since then, he has founded Rising Son Records (which features his children as well as Pete Seeger), and purchased the church he talked about in Alice’s Restaurant and turned it into the home of the Guthrie Center, a non-profit outreach center.

I’ll close with the closing lyrics from Which Side:

Some men work for little things
And some men work for more
Some men work for anything
And some don’t work at all

And me myself I’m satisfied
To sing for God’s own son
And ask you what I ask myself
Which side are you on?


~ by Alden on December 8, 2007.

6 Responses to “Outlasting the Blues”

  1. Hey – I really look forward to reading this blog. Nice theme, too. Funny, I kind of lost interest in Arlo at this time. But I will have to check out the music from this album.

  2. Okay. This blog’s going to be a reach for me since my classic rock experience is pretty much limited to the 70s. At least one of the radio stations I listen to says the 70s are classic. I’m not sure if the era of wide collars, bell bottoms, and bad haircuts could offer anything you could consider classic, but I’ll give it my best shot . . .

    How about the Pipkins with “Gimme Dat Ding”?

  3. The Pipkins! I actually had that on 45, I think… it’s a classic, but I’m not sure of what…

  4. “Gimme Dat Ding?!” I could never figure out how that made it to radio.

    Anyway, to help you spread your new blog:

    I need to let you know that you have been tagged. Follow this link to find out what the hell I am talking about.

  5. […] asked for it… You can blame this on Quixote for mentioning it in a comment on yesterday’s […]

  6. […] https://kroc.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/outlasting-the-blues/ […]

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