Arlo Guthrie, 'Alice's Restaurant' (1967)
Can you imagine a playfully meandering 18-minute, 34-second song that sounds like a joke but is really a war protest becoming a radio hit in 2014? Well, Arlo Guthrie (Woody's son) pulled that off with 1967's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," a ragtime-influenced ditty with a meandering story based on a real-life incident involving Guthrie. In brief, the protagonist is working at the titular restaurant on Thanksgiving Day when he has to take the trash to the town dump, only the dump is closed, so he leaves the garbage there. He gets arrested by local cops, gets fined in court, and later is deemed unfit to be drafted for the Vietnam War because of his crimes. The folk star originally played the song live on the radio, with the performance becoming an unlikely hit. As it was too long to be released as a single, it became the entire first side of the Alice's Restaurant LP, along with six more tracks that range from protest songs ("Ring-Around-a-Rosy Rag") to lovelorn ballads ("Chilling of the Evening") to purely silly ("The Motorcycle Song"). The album peaked at No. 17 on the charts and led to a movie of the same name, starring Guthrie, in 1969, a great reminder of just how effective a bit of absurdity can be when it comes to combating serious issues.