Hotel California

Where is the Hotel California? Well, for some, since the Eagle’s album had a picture of the Beverly Hills Hotel, that is a logical choice. But the Chicago jail is on California Street, so it too is called the Hotel California. That album was a huge hit, one of the best selling albums of all time, surpassed only once by the Eagles, that being the classic “Eagles – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)”.

Can you believe that Hotel California is 40 years old? The Eagles had a huge number of hits, but Hotel California is generally considered to be one of, if not their top ranked song. When it came out, I recall some complaining that the song was satanic in meaning, while others considered it a homage to a life of excess. All that controversy helped drive the song to the top of the charts in 1977, and the Eagles won the Grammy Record of the Year for the song.

I never saw the satanic link, however I think the general theme is that a life of excess is bad for you (which has it’s own satanic characteristics), but everyone has their own opinion.

‘This could be heaven or this could be Hell, then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way, there were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say, welcome to the Hotel California.” I see this as the pretty girl leading the band into a morass of wealth, fame and drugs.

Now California is where the Eagles picked for the song, but it was a bunch of life experiences that led to the writing of this song. Don Henley said: “We were getting an extensive education, in life, in love, in business. Beverly Hills was still a mythical place to us. In that sense it became something of a symbol, and the ‘Hotel’ the locus of all that LA had come to mean for us. In a sentence, I’d sum it up as the end of the innocence, round one.”

Probably the most quoted line in the song is “You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.” Used in the hotel context, that doesn’t make sense, but what they were saying is that once you become addicted to the wild and crazy lifestyle that was so pervasive in California at the time, you can “check out” (get a divorce, go on vacation, go to therapy, take some drugs) but still you “can never leave” (you’ll always come back to what you know).

In a stab at the girls that flocked around the Eagles, the lyrics said: “Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Bends (not Benz!), She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends.” It seems that the girls might have been seeking the fortune and fame, not the relationship. Even rock stars tire the physical relationship and want something more. That’s my take on it anyway.

A lyric that helped drive the satanic rumors was: “They stab it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast.” The Eagles and Steely Dan shared the same manager, Irving Azoff, and the bands had a friendly rivalry. Steely Dan had recently released “Everything You Did” with the lines “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening” so the Eagles gave them a shoutout by implying that they couldn’t slay Steely Dan no matter how hard they tried. It was all in fun.

Final note, the local jail in lovely Perry is officially the Houston County Detention Facility, although most refer to it as the jail. It too has a nickname, the Talton Hilton. However, they don’t make your bed for you, they don’t have room service and they sure don’t let you check out anytime you want.

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