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Hotel California

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Title: Hotel California  
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Subject: Eagles (band), Grammy Award for Record of the Year, Hell Freezes Over, History of the Eagles – Live in Concert, The Very Best Of (Eagles album)
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Hotel California

"Hotel California"
Side A of the U.S. single
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 Soft rock[1]
Length 6:30
Label Asylum
Writer(s) Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey
Producer(s) Bill Szymczyk
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Eagles singles chronology
"New Kid in Town"
"Hotel California"
"Life in the Fast Lane"
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 Eagles songs. 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".[2] In the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, Henley said that the song was about "a journey from innocence to experience...that's all".[3]


  • History and recognition 1
  • Interpretation 2
    • Conjectures 2.1
  • Cover art for single 3
  • Harmonic structure 4
  • Certifications 5
  • Personnel 6
  • Cover versions and parodies 7
    • Covers 7.1
    • Parodies 7.2
  • References 8
  • External links 9

History and recognition

"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.[4] 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.[5]

In 2009, the song was certified Platinum (Digital Sales Award) by the RIAA for sales of one million digital downloads.[6]

The music for the song originated from a demo written and recorded by Don Felder and given to Don Henley and Glenn Frey to write lyrics. 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".[7] 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[8] and was ranked 8th on Guitar Magazine‍ '​s Top 100 Guitar Solos.[9] 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, 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 1977 album version, but with a trumpet intro before the actual start of the song.

Glenn Frey described the origins of the song:

The song began as a demo tape, an instrumental by Don Felder. He'd been submitting tapes and song ideas to us since he'd joined the band, always instrumentals, since he didn't sing. But this particular demo, unlike many of the others, had room for singing. It immediately got our attention. The first working title, the name we gave it, was "Mexican Reggae".[10]


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.[11] Don Henley called it "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles"[12] 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."[13] In 2008, Don Felder described the origins of the lyrics:

Don Henley and Glenn wrote most of the words. All of us kind of drove into L.A. at night. Nobody was from California, and if you drive into L.A. at night... you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images that start running through your head of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have, and so it was kind of about that... what we started writing the song about. Coming into L.A.... and from that 'Life in the Fast Lane' came out of it, and 'Wasted Time' and a bunch of other songs.[14]

The term "colitas" in the first stanza means "little tails" in Spanish; in Mexican slang it refers to buds of the cannabis (marijuana) plant.[15][16][17]

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

On "Hotel California," you sing: "So I called up the captain / 'Please bring me my wine' / He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969.'" I realize I'm probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn't a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?

Henley responded:

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.[18]

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".[19]


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.[20][21] Other rumors suggested that the Hotel California was the Camarillo State Mental Hospital.[22]

Cover art for single

The front cover art for some editions of the 45rpm single 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.[23]

Harmonic structure

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.[24]

The chords are played as follows:


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.[24] 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.[24]

This chord sequence is not a commonly used progression and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has pointed out its similarity to his song "We Used to Know" from their 1969 album Stand Up, suggesting the Eagles heard it when they toured together.[25] While the Eagles had opened for Jethro Tull in June 1972, Don Felder, who wrote the music, did not join the band until 1974. Felder has said that he had never heard "We Used to Know".[26]

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:[24]

or assuming a key of D:


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Italy (FIMI)[27]
Digital download
Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[29]
Physical single
Gold 1,000,000^
United States (RIAA)[29]
Digital download
Platinum 3,000,000[30]

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


Cover versions and parodies


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


Parodies include:


  1. ^ "Brand new classics".  
  2. ^ Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  3. ^ History of the Eagles, 2013
  4. ^ "Pop Singles" Billboard December 24, 1977: TIA-64
  5. ^ Grammy Award winners
  6. ^ "Gold & Platinum - Diamond Certifications". RIAA. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. 
  8. ^ The Top 100 Solos of All Time
  9. ^ The Top 100 Solos of All Time
  10. ^ Crowe, Cameron. "Conversations with Don Henley and Glenn Frey" (The Very Best Of liner notes) (2003)
  11. ^ DeMain, Bill (2006). "Rock's Greatest Urban Legends". Performing Songwriter 13 (92). pp. 50–55.  Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. October 28, 2011.
  12. ^ "'"500 Greatest Songs of All Time: The Eagles, 'Hotel California. Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  13. ^ Reported by Steve Krofts, Producers: Graham Messick and Michael Karzis (June 15, 2008). "The Long Run". 60 Minutes. CBS. 
  14. ^ "Don Felder interview segment".  
  15. ^ De Artega y Pereira, Fernando. Practical Spanish (1902): 243
  16. ^ Ostler, Scott. "Rockin' 'Round the Round" San Francisco Chronicle February 5, 2003
  17. ^ Avant-Mier, Roberto. Rock the Nation: Latin/o Identities and the Latin Rock Diaspora (2010): 81-82
  18. ^ Soeder, John. "Don Henley gets into the spirit talking about 'Hotel California'" The Plain Dealer March 20, 2009: T14
  19. ^ Liner Notes - The Very Best of the Eagles
  20. ^ Denisoff, R. Serge; Schurk, William. Tarnished Gold: The Record Industry Revisited (1986): 407
  21. ^ Stoffels, Kenneth. "Minister Links Rock, Sympathy for the Devil" The Milwaukee Sentinel September 28, 1982: 6
  22. ^ Bishop, Greg. Weird California (2006): 228
  23. ^ Ochs, Micheael. 1000 Record Covers. Taschen.  
  24. ^ a b c d Tillekens, Ger. "Locked into the Hotel California: Or, expanding the Spanish progression"., 2006, Retrieved March 1, 2012.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Feenstra, Pete (September 2012). "Interview: Don Felder". Get Ready to Rock. hotdigitsnewmedia group. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Italian single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California" (in Italian).   Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Eagles in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  28. ^ "British single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California".   Enter Hotel California in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  29. ^ a b "American single certifications – Eagles – Hotel California".   If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  30. ^ Appel, Rich (December 10, 2014). "Revisionist History, Holiday Edition: Mariah Gets a 'Christmas' Gift, Wham! Gets the Boot".  
  31. ^ "Livin’ it up with a parody of paradise: Mike Piranha's 'Hotel Honolulu' gets airplay and guffaws". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. June 8, 1998. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 

External links

  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
  • Classic Tracks: The Eagles 'Hotel California'
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
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