Saturday, May 7, 1977

The Eagles’ “Hotel California” hit #1

Hotel California

Eagles

Writer(s): Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey (see lyrics here)


Released: February 22, 1977


First Charted: February 26, 1977


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 10 AC, 1 CL, 8 UK, 12 CN, 60 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.85 UK, 4.85 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 78.6 video, 797.17 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

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 album 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. Critic Toby Creswell called it “their finest moment.” CR

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

The song started as singer and drummer Don Henley’s reaction to his breakup with girlfriend Loree Rodkin, but “got more universal.” CR 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. Henley explained, “‘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 asserted 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 America at large.” CR


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Eagles
  • DMDB page for parent album Hotel California
  • BC Brad Carl (2015). 50 Songs from the 70s and 80s That Still Hold Up. Pages 15-16.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 274.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Pages 77-8.
  • 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 & Francis, Inc.

Last updated 4/13/2021.

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