Welcome to the best site on the Internet for information about the song Hotel California by Eagles. We provide you with insight into the history of the song, lyrics and of course interpretations and encourage you to add your own information in the end to add your opinion of the meaning of Hotel California.
Hotel California is an album released by the rock band Eagles in 1976. The album was the first Eagles album without founding member Bernie Leadon who, according to an interview in 2008 with Don Felder, wanted to spend more time taking care of his health. Leadon was replaced with Joe Walsh who debuted on the album.
Writing credits of the song are attributed to Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
The album was – and actually still is – a major commercial hit having sold more than 16 million copies in the United States alone.
Hotel California is the name of the title track of the album and released as a single in 1977 topping the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts for one week in May 1977. And it is this song that this site is about.
The hotel in the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel which is frequented by Hollywood stars.
Do not have the song yet? Grab it now as a mp3 download or album at Amazon or view the Youtube video below.
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’this could be heaven or this could be hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…
Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel california
Any time of year, you can find it here
Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
So I called up the captain,
’please bring me my wine’
He said, ’we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…
Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel california
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis
Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ’we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!
Don Henley, Dutch ZigZag magazine
This is a concept album, there’s no way to hide it, but it’s not set in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It’s more urban this time (. . . ) It’s our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake people up and say ‘We’ve been okay so far, for 200 years, but we’re gonna have to change if we’re gonna continue to be around.’
Don Felder, Howard Stern Show, 2008
“Don Henley and Glenn wrote most of the words. All of us kind of drove into LA at night. Nobody was from California, and if you drive into LA at night… you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images that start running through your head of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have, and so it was kind of about that… what we started writing the song about. Coming into LA… and from that Life In The Fast Lane came out of it, and Wasted Time and a bunch of other songs.”
That record explores the under belly of success, the darker side of Paradise. Which was sort of what we were experiencing in Los Angeles at that time. So that just sort of became a metaphor for the whole world and for everything you know. And we just decided to make it Hotel California. So with a microcosm of everything else going on around us.
“Don and I heard [Felder's demo] tape and said, ‘Gosh, this is like Spanish reggae rock, this is really a bizarre mix of musical influences, this is great.’ The music was entirely written by Felder, and Don and I wrote the chorus, and Don wrote most of the verses.” (1988)
“The song began as a demo tape, an instrumental by Don Felder. He’d been submitting tapes and song ideas to us since he’d joined the band, always instrumentals, since he didn’t sing. But this particular demo, unlike many of the others, had room for singing. It immediately got our attention. The first working title, the name we gave it, was ‘Mexican Reggae.’
“For us, ‘Hotel California’ was definitely thinking and writing outside the box. We had never written any song like it before. Similar to ‘Desperado,’ we did not start out to make any sort of concept or theme album. But when we wrote ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ and started working on ‘Hotel California’ and ‘New Kid In Town’ with J.D., we knew we were heading down a long and twisted corridor and just stayed with it. Songs from the dark side — the Eagles take a look at the seamy underbelly of L.A. — the flip side of fame and failure, love and money. “‘They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast’ was a little Post-It back to Steely Dan. Apparently, Walter Becker’s girlfriend loved the Eagles, and she played them all the time. I think it drove him nuts. So, the story goes that they were having a fight one day, and that was the genesis of the line, ‘turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening’ in ‘Everything You Did,’ from Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam album. During the writing of ‘Hotel California,’ we decided to volley. We just wanted to allude to Steely Dan rather than mentioning them outright, so ‘Dan’ got changed to ‘knives,’ which is still, you know, a penile metaphor. Stabbing, thrusting, etc. “Almost everybody in my business can write music, play guitar, play piano, create chord progressions, etc., but it’s only when you add lyrics and melody and voices to these things that they take on an identity and become something beyond that sum of the individual parts. I remember that Henley and I were listening to the “Hotel California” demo tape together on an airplane, and we were talking about what we would write and how we wanted to be more cinematic. We wanted this song to open like an episode of The Twilight Zone — just one shot after another. “I remember De Niro in The Last Tycoon. He’s got this scene, and he’s talking to some other people in his office. He speaks to them: “The door opens…the camera is on a person’s feet…he walks across the room…we pan up to the table… he picks up a pack of matches that says ‘The Such-And-Such Club’ on it… strikes a match and lights a cigarette…puts it out… goes over to the window… opens the shade… looks out… the moon is there… what does it mean? Nothing. It’s just the movies.’Hotel California’ is like that. We take this guy and make him like a character in The Magus, where every time he walks through a door there’s a new version of reality. We wanted to write a song just like it was a movie. This guy is driving across the desert. He’s tired. He’s smokin’. Comes up over a hill, sees some lights, pulls in. First thing he sees is a really strange guy at the front door, welcoming him: “Come on in.” Walks in, and then it becomes Fellini-esque — strange women, effeminate men, shadowy corridors, disembodied voices, debauchery, illusion… Weirdness. So we thought, ‘Let’s really take some chances. Let’s try to write in a way that we’ve never written before.’ Steely Dan inspired us because of their lyrical bravery and willingness to go ‘out there.’ So, for us, ‘Hotel California’ was about thinking and writing outside the box.” (Very Best Liner Notes 2003)
“‘The Last Resort’ is probably one of the biggest pieces of musical literature we ever tackled. We wanted to pull the whole idea together, so we thought of this girl from Providence and we took her on an epic journey across America, through Colorado, where they laid the mountains low, through California, where they polluted the sea, to Hawaii, where they were ruining paradise. Really that song embodies the whole spirit of Hotel California and is Don Henley’s greatest lyrical achievement to this day. He wrote 90 percent of the words to that song, and it’s a classic. It’s slightly depressing, but it’s a classic.” (1988)
“As far as I was concerned, being visual — to start with a picture — was the first and most important aspect of lyric-writing. You can look at the list of Eagles songs from ‘Take It Easy’ through ‘Hotel California,’ and in the first four lines, we put you someplace: ‘On a dark desert highway…’ or, ‘I’m runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load…’. Openings of songs are very important, so I’ve always considered myself to be a visual songwriter.” (The Oregonian 1993)
On South of Sunset
“I played at the tailgate party for the Superbowl last January . And some people at Paramount saw me up on the stage doing The Heat Is On. They were having trouble casting this character Cody McMahon – they’d been looking for people for a couple months – and then some guy had a few beers too many and said, ‘How ‘bout Glenn Frey?” (Arsenio Hall Interview 1992)
“This is ‘Hotel California’ on film.” (1993)
Hotel California has seen many different interpretations over the year. The band, more than once, confirmed that the song was about excess and materialism. Don Henley for instance said in the London Daily Mail “It was really about the excesses of American culture and certain girls we knew. But it was also about the uneasy balance between art and commerce”
The underlying theme of the song is the corruption and decadence of the Los Angeles music industry which is described as a prison that artists seek and freely enter [And she said ’we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’] to later discover that they cannot escape it anymore [But you can never leave!]
Colitas is a Spanish word translated to Henley by the Eagles Mexican-American road manager meaning “Little Buds,” and is a reference to marijuana.
What Hotel California does not mean
- it is not a reference to Satan or the Church of Satan
- it is not about a real hotel with the (nick)name Hotel California
- Hotel California is not a mental hospital or prison
- Eliot, Marc. To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, Da Capo Press, 2004
- Hoskyns, Barney. Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends
- Hotel California – Sheet Music – (Eagles, Guitar/TAB/Vocal)
- Wikipedia entry about the song
- Wikipedia Band History
- Glenn Frey Online