Monday, 9 February 2015

Hotel California by Eagles

Hotel California by Eagles completed thirty-nine years last December. The song is the lead track from the namesake album and was released in 1976. It is considered one of the best songs of the rock era. But then, Eagles are regarded as one of the world’s best music groups ever. 

If I knew how to play the guitar, I’d have played Hotel California more than any other song. I like the way it sounds. It puts you in a kind of a trance. The fusion of electric guitar and drums are in unison with the vocals sung by Don Henley, who along with Don Felder and Glenn Frey are believed to have written the lyrics and composed the music.

I love the start and end of this iconic song. It begins with a slow drum beat, at the hands of Henley who also belts out the song, and finishes with a superb “interplay” of electric guitar by Felder and fellow band member Joe Walsh. You don’t want it to end.

Hotel California sounds like a pulp or a horror story in lyrical form. A man, exhausted from a long and tiring journey, checks into a hotel that looks warm and inviting only to find that it’s actually a dreadful place—where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Don Henley has described the song as the Eagles’ “interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles” and that “It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”

Over the years Hotel California has been open to many interpretations. Anyone who listens to it will have his or her own take on it. I thought the lyrics were very original and refreshing, as was the music.

Believe it or not, I have heard only one other song by Eagles, Tequila Sunrise, for which I blame the overriding influence of Hotel California.

18 comments:

  1. Hmm.... I can't say it has the same effect on me TBH. I think they were just a bit before the period when I started paying attention to music. I'd struggle to name any of the members of the band other than Henley, or think of another song they sang!

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    1. Col, I know so many people in India who love this song. It tells us something about how people react to cultures from different parts of the world. Since blogging, I have found that books, cinema, and music which is passé or not very popular in the West is still in demand out here.

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  2. I like that song a lot too. It's one of the few songs that, to me, has just as good a set of lyrics as it does music

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    1. Charles, the excellent combination of lyrics and music is the main reason I like this song. Besides. I enjoy watching musicians strum the guitar.

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  3. I bought the first album when it came out, and bought all the rest, on vinyl and then on CD. I have them all, still listen tot hem a lot. So many great songs, from "Take It Easy" on that first album, "Desperado" and "Lyin' Eyes" and all the rest. I'm amazed that you like this song so much but haven''t listened to the rest of the album and other albums! I also like the albums that Henley and Frey did after the group broke up.

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    1. Richard, it amazes me too. Then again, I have also listened to one or two popular numbers by other bands. I'm not very particular about songs but it makes sense to listen to all the songs in an album. I'll have to do better justice to the Eagles than I have so far.

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  4. Great documentary about the band with the same title Prashant that is well worth a look - here is a (cough) link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SjGAPWgHUc

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    1. Sergio, thanks for the link. I haven't had the time to look at the documentary and will do so this weekend.

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  5. The song became something like an anthem for a few months when it was popular. It was playing so frequently on radio stations, and so many people were singing along in their cars. The Eagles -- to my mind -- were THE band of the brief era. But I am getting carried away by waxing nostalgic, and as I am so damned old now, what the hell do I know!

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    1. R.T., this song is still very popular in India and my two grown-up kids love it too, as do many of their friends. I have been influenced by a lot of music that came out during 1975-1990 after which music has been just so much noise.

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  6. It's one of my favorite songs, still. Thanks for sharing this extra information--really interesting.

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    1. Fleur, you're welcome. I love everything about "Hotel California" though I realised its meaning only much later.

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  7. Having gone to school in California in the1960s and missing it after returning to cold winters back East, this song was very evocative for me, especially the line "We haven't had that spirit here since 1969." It's a song with amazing staying power; I never tire of it. The Joe Walsh lyrics on the album are brilliant.

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    1. Ron, I agree, the song has "amazing staying power" and the lyrics are "brilliant." I listen to it to this day.

      Regarding the line, "So I called up the captain/'Please bring me my wine'/He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969.'" Wikipedia quotes Henley as saying that he has often been asked about wine being a "spirit," that it is distilled, unlike spirits, and whether he regrets the line in the song.

      According to Wikipedia, Henley's response was: "Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you're not the first to bring this to my attention—and you're not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes."

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  8. I love the Eagles songs and this song in particular. Can't even say why. I was living in California when it came out, but I don't think it was a particularly good year for me. It just makes me feel good. And all the songs that Richard mentioned too.

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    1. Tracy, I know what you mean. I love so many songs without really knowing why I do. For instance, I also enjoy listening to "Show Me the Way" by Peter Frampton even though I have heard little else by him. Some songs work more than others probably because they are music to the ears. Otherwise, I don't know a thing about music.

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  9. I think this one really is iconic for a certain generation who were the right age when it came out....

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    1. Moira, it is an iconic song and it has been passed down generations. It's quite popular among the youth today.

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