Hotel California: The Astonishing Philosophical Poem from The Eagles

Hotel California
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’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
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel california
Any time of year, you can find it here

Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the captain,
’please bring me my wine’
He said, ’we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the hotel california
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel california
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ’we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
’relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!

The lyrics describe the title establishment as a luxury resort where “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” On the surface, it tells the tale of a weary traveler who becomes trapped in a nightmarish luxury hotel that at first appears inviting and tempting. The song is an allegory about hedonism and self-destruction in the music industry of the late 1970s; Don Henley called it “our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles[7] 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.”[8] 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.”[9]

The abstract nature of the lyrics has led listeners to their own interpretations over the years. In the 1980s, some Christian evangelists alleged that “Hotel California” referred to a San Francisco hotel purchased by Anton LaVey and converted into the Church of Satan.[10][11] Other rumors suggested that the Hotel California was the Camarillo State Mental Hospital.[12] These claims have been consistently denied by the band.[citation needed]

The term “colitas” in the first stanza of the song is a Spanish term for “little tails” and in Mexican slang it is a reference to the buds of the Cannabis plant.[13]

In a 2009 interview, 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.”[14]

According to Glenn Frey‘s liner notes for The Very Best of Eagles, the use of the word “steely” in the lyric (referring to knives) was a playful nod to band Steely Dan, who had included the lyric “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening” in their song “Everything You Did“. (Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_California_(song))

2 responses to “Hotel California: The Astonishing Philosophical Poem from The Eagles

  1. Pingback: HOTEL EUROPHRENIA (video satire of Euro-banksters with VIRTUAL SINGER) #greekrevolution « Anti-IMF Collab. Blog

  2. Pingback: California Hotels | Where to stay in LA

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