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Album Review: Hotel California (The Eagles)

GuitarInternationalMagazine

By: Darko Veselinovic 

HotelCaliforniaCoverReleased on December 8, 1976. Hotel California is one of the best rock and roll albums to date, becoming an instant hit on release day. With over 16 million copies sold in the US alone, Hotel California topped the billboard charts for eight weeks and hit no.2 in the U.K.. Songs such as “Hotel California”, “New Kid in Town”, “Life in The Fast Lane”, made the album a massive hit and made it stand out from their previous work.

From legendary harmonies from Don Felder and Jon Walsh to amazing vocal lines from Don Henley, this album has it all. It’s a must-listen for anybody who calls themselves a rock enthusiast.  In the early stages of the Eagles career, the band never received the ambitious sound that they were after, but Hotel California is the album that took them to that next level and expanded their sound. 

Hotel California was the last album to feature bassist Randy Meisner, who was later replaced by Timothy B. Schmit.

The album comes with 9 tracks in total, with no filler whatsoever. These tracks include:

  • Hotel California – The bands most popular and overplayed tune with over 358 million views on YouTube. From awesome vocal lines such as “Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice” is what makes this particular tune unforgettable and still makes fans curious to this day as to what the meaning behind each line is. You won’t find the Eagles playing live without this tune in their setlist.
  • New Kid in Town – A tune that was not often played by the Eagles, was also a memorable song on the album which became a number-one hit in the U.S..  The song was rumored to be about Bruce Springsteen, who was on the rise to fame when the song was written, but J.D. Souther has denied this. 

This is what Don Henley had to say in regards to the meaning of the song, “It’s about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance. It’s also about the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business. We were basically saying, ‘Look, we know we’re red hot right now but we also know that somebody’s going to come along and replace us — both in music and in love.’

  • Life in the Fast Lane – This tune was the 3rd single released from the album, and peaked No.11 on the billboard 100.  This tune was definitely one of their strongest tunes on the album, with the editors of the Rolling Stones saying “Life in the Fast Lane” as the Eagles’ eighth greatest song”. “Life in the Fast Lane” illustrates a story of a couple that takes their excessive lifestyle to another level.

The inspiration that took place from this song was quite interesting. According to Glenn Frey, he said that the idea came to him when he was on cocaine heading to Las Vegas in a drug dealers Corvette, driving 160 mph. In this time of the Eagle’s career, the band was said to be heavily involved in cocaine which was part of the reason for their breakup.

  1. Wasted Time – This quite a hitting song that resonates with a lot of us. “Wasted Time” tries to send the message of, “Don’t let life pass by you. Don’t waste time, when you could be living life”. This is an unfortunate reality for a lot of us, sadly some of us don’t see it until it’s too late. More specifically the song mentions how some of us view ended-relationships as wasted time.

The singer is trying to express how even if the relationship wasn’t the success that you so desired it to be, the time isn’t wasted time. You have to fail before you succeed, and is a strong message that is trying to be sent across to the listeners. All of us dream to get success on the first attempt but in most cases, it is just not possible, unless you have extraordinary luck.

  • Wasted Time (Reprise) – With no lyrics on the song but beautiful melodies, make it a great addition to the album, sadly it is only a minute long
  • Victim of Love – Don Felder was very determined to get this song onto the album and he wanted to sing it, though at the time it didn’t meet the band’s standards. In order to get the song on the album, manager Irving Azoff took Don out to a meal where he would sing what would later become the final version.

Don Felder had provided lead vocals on the initial takes of the song, though his bandmates were apparently not happy with the results. Some in the band said, “Don Felder, for all of his talents as a guitar player, was not a singer”.

The meaning of the song is very similar to that of “Wasted Time”. It tells the story of the destruction of not letting go of an unhealthy relationship. Many of us have experienced this which has led us into what is called a “victim mindset”. Playing the victim instead of taking responsibility, we only allow ourselves to become the victim if we choose to be one.

  • Pretty Maids All in a Row – A lesser-known and played tune by the Eagles steers in a similar direction as other tunes on the album in terms of lyrics. Joe Walsh was responsible for amazing solo work on this album, which in my opinion took the Eagles to a new level. “Pretty Maids All in a Row”, talks about two lost friends uniting after a long time. 

The second first has not stayed in touch, as he has become rich which has later isolated him. The song then speaks to those people who have chased the riches only to ruin their friendships, later on, this is evident in the line “And all you wishing well fools with your fortunes”

  • Try and Love Again – Quite possibly the most underrated tune on the whole album, there is nothing to do but love it. The band’s bassist, Randy Meisner takes the cake here with his vocal lines and is what makes it stick out on the album. “Try and Love Again”, hits the listener with its heavy lyrics that one can resonate with, “Right or wrong, what’s done is done It’s only moments that you borrow but the thoughts will linger on”.

The main message is that been sent across is to not give up when in the search of love. Your heart may be broken more times than you can count, but it’s all a numbers game and you just have to hold on until you get to the one that says yes.

  1. The Last Resort – The title of this song may remind you of the album cover and the album title itself and is the last tune on the album. Henley himself said in a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone, “The Last Resort”, on Hotel California is still one of my favorite songs… That’s because I care more about the environment than about writing songs about drugs or love affairs or excesses of any kind”. 

This was interesting considering most of the Hotel California album sang about drugs or love affairs, it finishes off the album with an interesting twist. As you could have probably guessed, the song talks about the environment and how we have mortgaged out future for gain and greed ultimately leading to our own destruction

HotelCaliforniaBackcoverThe band believed that Hotel California was the peak of their career. According to Don Henley in a 1982 interview, he stated that “After that, we started growing apart as collaborators and as friends”. With an album like Hotel California, it can be hard to top. In 2001, Hotel California was certified 16 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

This album not only came with 9 amazing songs, but it came with some interesting facts as well. The photograph that you now see on the album cover was taken by David Alexander, but the design and art direction was done by John Kosh. According to Kosh, Don Henley wanted him to find a location to, “portray it with a slightly sinister edge”. 

Having this in mind, the album artwork has prompted accusations of satanism. This was even the most popular interpretation for the song on the album named, Hotel California.  While some believe the self-titled track is about satanism, it has been partly confirmed to be about cocaine addiction and marijuana use according to Glen Frey.  

On November 25, 2007, Don Henley was on the show 60 Minutes, where he said, “Everyone wants to know what this song means. I know it’s so boring. It’s a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America which was something that we knew about.”

Interestingly enough, in the 2013 History of the Eagles documentary, Don Henley said, “It’s a song about a journey from innocence to experience.” To this day, fans are still trying to figure out  the meaning of the song.

If you love rock and roll, then Hotel California is a must-grab.

ABOUT Darko Veselinovic

Hailing from Australia, a music and heavy metal enthusiast, Darko has been playing guitar for over 7 years, and is the founder of The Music Gig.

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