Released: December 8, 1976
Charted: December 25, 1976
Peak: 18 US, 2 UK, 14 CN, 112 AU
Sales (in millions): 26.0 US, 1.8 UK, 32.33 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Total Running Time: 43:28
4.344 out of 5.00 (average of 23 ratings)
Quotable: “Hotel California unveiled…a band…that made music worthy of the later tag of ‘classic rock’” – William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Hotel California proved a major milestone for the already immensely popular Eagles. The band’s sound had previously been rooted in country rock. They didn’t abandon that sound, as evidenced by lead single and #1 hit New Kid in Town – but in the eighteen months between the release of their 1975 album One of These Nights and Hotel California in 1976, they made “a stylistic shift toward mainstream rock.” WR
The Eagles reportedly spent eight months in the studio recording. With “changes in producer and personnel, as well as a noticeable growth in creativity, Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band. It was a band that could be bombastic, but also one that made music worthy of the later tag of ‘classic rock,’ music appropriate for the arenas and stadiums the band was playing.” WR “Early on, the group couldn’t rock convincingly;” WR they “never seemed to get a sound big enough for their ambitions.” WR However, the departure of Benie Leadon, “who had given the band much of its country flavor,” WR and the pairing of new arrival Joe Walsh with guitarist Don Felder gave the band more “arena-rock heft.” WR
Nowhere is that stylistic shift more apparent than on Life in the Fast Lane, a song which “drew a line between the band’s country-tinged past and rock and roll future” TL as it “captured coke culture in a catchphrase.” BL
That song was one of six which Don Henley either wrote or co-wrote, signaling another main shift for the Eagles. He was now “the band’s dominant voice, both as a singer and a lyricist.” WR Though his songs, he “sketches a thematic statement that begins by using California as a metaphor for a dark, surreal world of dissipation; comments on the ephemeral nature of success and the attraction of excess; branches out into romantic disappointment; and finally sketches a broad, pessimistic history of America that borders on nihilism.” WR
Those themes are clearly on display on the title track, “a sprawling epic” TL that “framed Hollywood…in terms so impressively vague they seemed mythic.” BL The song had “Satanic undertones that might have been subconsciously cribbed from Jethro Tull’s ‘We Used to Know’ when the bands toured together. As for the warm smell of colitas, fans are split on whether the word is Spanish slang for cannabis buds or an easy lay. Given the band and the era, the safest guess is both.” TL
“Like much of their catalog, Hotel California seems a lot smarter when you listen to it than when you talk about it.” TL “The lyrics kick in some time after one has appreciated the album’s music.” WR In any event, “the result was the Eagles' biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.” WR
A 40th anniversary edition of the album included a live disc recorded at the L.A. Forum between October 20-22, 1976.
Other Related DMDB Pages:
First posted 3/11/2008; last updated 8/28/2021.