Hotel California

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For the Eagles album of the same name, see Hotel California (Eagles album). For other uses, see Hotel California (disambiguation).
"Hotel California"
Single by Eagles
from the album Hotel California
B-side "Pretty Maids All in a Row"
Released February 1977
Format 7" single
Recorded 1976
Genre Rock
Length 6:30
Label Asylum
Writer(s) Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley
Producer(s) Bill Szymczyk
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Eagles singles chronology
"New Kid in Town"
(1976)
"Hotel California"
(1977)
"Life in the Fast Lane"
(1977)
Music sample

"Hotel California" is the title track from the Eagles' album of the same name and was released as a single in February 1977. It is one of the best known songs of the album-oriented rock era. Writing credits for the song are shared by Don Felder (music), Don Henley, and Glenn Frey (lyrics). The Eagles' original recording of the song features Henley singing the lead vocals and concludes with an extended section of electric guitar interplay between Felder and Joe Walsh. The song has been given several interpretations by fans and critics alike, but the Eagles have described it as their "interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles".[1] In the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, Henley said that the song was about "a journey from innocence to experience...that's all".[2]

History and recognition[edit]

"Hotel California" topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for one week in May 1977 and peaked at number 10 on the Easy Listening chart. Billboard ranked it number 19 on its 1977 Pop Singles year-end chart.[3] Three months after its first release, the single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing one million copies shipped. The Eagles also won the 1977 Grammy Award for Record of the Year for "Hotel California" at the 20th Grammy Awards in 1978.[4]

In 2009, the song "Hotel California" was certified Platinum (Digital Sales Award) by the RIAA for sales of one million digital downloads.[5]

The music for this song originated from a demo written and recorded by Don Felder and given to Don Henley and Glenn Frey to write lyrics for it. Once finished it was recorded in the key of E minor which turned out to be the wrong key for Don Henley to sing and was later re-recorded in the proper key for his voice which was B minor. The song is rated highly in many rock music lists and polls; Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 49 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[6] It is also one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The song's guitar solo was voted the best solo of all time by readers of Guitarist magazine in 1998[7] and was ranked 8th on Guitar Magazine '​s Top 100 Guitar Solos[8] The song was also included in the music video game Guitar Hero World Tour. It was most recently voted the #1 12 string guitar song by Guitar World magazine.

As one of the group's most popular and well-known songs, "Hotel California" has been a concert staple for the band since its release. Performances of the song appear on the Eagles' 1980 live album, simply called Live, and in an acoustic version on the 1994 Hell Freezes Over reunion concert CD and video release. The Hell Freezes Over version is performed using eight guitars and has a decidedly Spanish sound, with Don Felder's flamenco-inspired arrangement and intro. During the band's Farewell 1 Tour-Live from Melbourne, the song was performed in a manner closer to the original album version, but with a trumpet interlude in the beginning.[citation needed]

Glenn Frey described the origins of the song:

Interpretation[edit]

The lyrics weave a surrealistic tale in which a weary traveler checks into a luxury hotel. The hotel at first appears inviting and tempting, but it turns out to be a nightmarish place where "you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave". The song is an allegory about hedonism, self-destruction, and greed in the music industry of the late 1970s.[10] Don Henley called it "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles"[11] and later reiterated: "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."[12] In 2008, Don Felder described the origins of the lyrics:

"Colitas" in the first stanza means "little tails" in Spanish.[14] According to Frey, it "means little tails, the very top of the plant. That was a dark, strange period of my life."[15]

In a 2009 interview, The Plain Dealer music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley this about the lyrics:

Henley responded:

According to Glenn Frey's liner notes for The Very Best Of, the use of the word "steely" in the lyric, "They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast," was a playful nod to the band Steely Dan, who had included the lyric "Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening" in their song "Everything You Did".[17]

Conjectures[edit]

The metaphorical character of the story related in the lyrics has inspired a number of conjectural interpretations by listeners. In the 1980s some Christian evangelists alleged that "Hotel California" referred to a San Francisco hotel that was purchased by Anton LaVey and converted into a Church of Satan.[18][19] Other rumors suggested that the Hotel California was the Camarillo State Mental Hospital.[20]

Cover art for single[edit]

The front cover art for the 45rpm release of the song was a reworked version of the Hotel California LP cover art, which used a photograph of the Beverly Hills Hotel by David Alexander, with design and art direction by Kosh.[21]

Harmonic structure[edit]

The intro and verse's chord pattern counts eight measures, each one assigned to a single chord. Seven different chords are used in the eight measures. As the song opens, it is not until the eighth measure that a chord is repeated. The song is initially in the key of B-minor.[22]

The chords are played as follows:

Bm-F#-A-E-G-D-Em-F#
or
i-V-VII-IV-VI-III-iv-V

The eight measure sequence is repeated in the intro, for each verse and in the outro, providing the harmonic framework for the entire extended dual guitar solo at the end of the song.[22] Although this chord sequence is not a commonly used progression, it does resemble Jethro Tull's "We Used to Know" from their 1969 album Stand Up.[better source needed][22] One explanation of the progression is that it is a common flamenco chord progression called the "Spanish progression" (i-VII-VI-V in a phrygian context) that is interspersed with consecutive fifths.[22]

The chorus, or refrain, uses five of the song's seven chord set, structured with the melody in a way that shifts the key from B-minor to its relative major of D:[22]

G-D-F#-Bm-G-D-Em-F#
or assuming a key of D:
IV-I-III-vi-IV-I-ii-III

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Italy (FIMI)[23]
Digital download
Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[25]
Physical single
Gold 1,000,000^
United States (RIAA)[25]
Digital download
Platinum 1,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Personnel[edit]

Cover versions and parodies[edit]

Covers[edit]

Many cover versions of "Hotel California" have been released:

Parodies[edit]

Parodies include:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  2. ^ History of the Eagles, 2013
  3. ^ "Pop Singles" Billboard December 24, 1977: TIA-64
  4. ^ Grammy Award winners
  5. ^ "Gold & Platinum - Diamond Certifications". RIAA. Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  6. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004-12-09. Archived from the original on 2006-12-14. 
  7. ^ The Top 100 Solos of All Time
  8. ^ The Top 100 Solos of All Time
  9. ^ Crowe, Cameron. "Conversations with Don Henley and Glenn Frey" The Very Best Of liner notes (2003)
  10. ^ DeMain, Bill (2006). "Rock's Greatest Urban Legends". Performing Songwriter 13 (92). pp. 50–55.  Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 October 2011.
  11. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: The Eagles, 'Hotel California'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  12. ^ Reported by Steve Krofts, Producers: Graham Messick and Michael Karzis (June 15, 2008). "The Long Run". 60 Minutes. CBS. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/578854/the-long-run.
  13. ^ "Don Felder interview segment". The Howard Stern Show. Sirius Satellite Radio. 2008-07-17.
  14. ^ De Artega y Pereira, Fernando. Practical Spanish (1902): 243
  15. ^ Ostler, Scott. "Rockin' 'Round the Round" San Francisco Chronicle February 5, 2003
  16. ^ Soeder, John. "Don Henley gets into the spirit talking about 'Hotel California'" The Plain Dealer March 20, 2009: T14
  17. ^ Liner Notes - The Very Best of the Eagles
  18. ^ Denisoff, R. Serge; Schurk, William. Tarnished Gold: The Record Industry Revisited (1986): 407
  19. ^ Stoffels, Kenneth. "Minister Links Rock, Sympathy for the Devil" The Milwaukee Sentinel September 28, 1982: 6
  20. ^ Bishop, Greg. Weird California (2006): 228
  21. ^ Ochs, Micheael. 1000 Record Covers. Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-4085-8. 
  22. ^ a b c d e Tillekens, Ger. "Locked into the Hotel California: Or, expanding the Spanish progression". Soundscapes.info, 2006, Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  23. ^ "Italian single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved May 2, 2013.  Select Online in the field Scegli la sezione. Select Week -- and Year ----. Enter Eagles in the field Artista. Click Avvia la ricerca
  24. ^ "British single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 14, 2013.  Enter Hotel California in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  25. ^ a b "American single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 2, 2013.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  26. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Southern Nights" by Glen Campbell
Billboard Hot 100 number one singles
May 7, 1977
Succeeded by
"When I Need You" by Leo Sayer