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In the early ’70s, the Eagles took wing, rising up from being Linda Ronstadt’s backup band to becoming the premiere country rock group. Through four albums, they crafted a sound that de-emphasized the twang just enough to give them widespread appeal. In the process, they landed two #1 songs and three more top ten hits.
By their fifth album, personnel changes meant the Eagles had more muscle with the dual guitars of Don Felder and Joe Walsh. This new direction in sound didn’t dampen pop audiences’ enthusiasm – the Hotel California gave the Eagles two more #1 songs – “New Kid in Town” and the title track. While the first still treated listeners to a slice of country rock, “Hotel California” established the Eagles as a dominant force in the classic rock arena.
The song’s tale of a luxury resort where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” has prompted multiple interpretations. Theories abound as to song’s inspiration although all such rumors have been denied by the band. WK Themes range from heroin addiction to Satan worship, RS500 from being about a cannibal-run hotel, a state mental hospital, or a metaphor for cancer. WK
Singer Don Henley said it was about “‘the decadence and escapism of the ‘70s.’” LW The song is considered an allegory about the music industry and the destructive influence it had on the Eagles. As Henley has also said, “‘We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest…‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.’” RS500
Bandmate Glenn Frey asserts that California was just “‘a microcosm for the rest of the world,’” LW a sentiment echoed by Henley’s comments that the song explores “‘the dark underbelly of the American dream and...excess in America.’” WK
- one of the top 100 songs of the rock era, according to the DMDB
- one of the top 1000 songs of all time
- DMDB song of the year
- top 100 classic rock songs of all time
- one of the top 100 songs of the 1970s
- one of my personal favorite top 100 songs of all time
- Grammy Award for Record of the Year
- Grammy Hall of Fame
- Q Magazine’s Top 100 Songs of All Time
- RIAA’s 365 songs of the 20th century
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll
- Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Songs of All Time
- Virgin Radio – Top 100 Songs
Resources and Related Links:
- DMDB page for “Hotel California”
- The Eagles’ DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
- DMDB page for Hotel California album
- LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 138.
- RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
- WK Wikipedia.org