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Hotel California

When we talk about the music in the 1960s and 70s there are a couple of bands that come to our mind. From the Golden era of Rock n’ Roll music to the time of Hard Rock, it was a smooth transition. However, any transition is not as smooth as it depicts once the implementation is in order. The risk of starting something new and changing the world-ly likings is a huge gamble. All the artists at that time were spending their time at one or another hotel and majorly in California – “The hub of gambling and high life in the world.”

Nevertheless, just like all the wagers in this world, some pay and some don’t. But, here we shall be talking about the one that did pay off; and it pays off really well.

The 1960s in international music was dominated by the Rock n’ Roll music genre. People did live to see The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and many more of that era. Yet, some names did get lost along the way; and one such name is Eagles.

For those who don’t know about Eagles, here is a brief gist. Eagles are an American Rock band consisting of four members initially. They have three phases of their career; the first one from 1971 – 1980, the second one was from 1994 – 2016 and the third one is still active when the band members came together in 2017.

Eagles gave a number of hit songs, but, nothing even got as famous as Hotel California. The track was the title record for the album of the same name. It was released in 1977 and instantly hit the charts all over the world. But, it did fail to make an impression on the Indian audience.

The probable reason could be that at the same time, Indians were getting used to Pop artists like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Paul McCarthy etc. Plus, the lost love of The Beatles was still lingering. So, Eagles got popular only amongst the hard-core seekers of Rock music.

Their all-time hit single – Hotel California is one of the best tracks. The song had also won Grammy Award for Record of the Year, 1978.

You must be wondering; why am I talking about this?

Well, I’ll answer your question, but, first, let me tell you how I even came across this song. On a fine day, I was listening to November Rain by Guns N’ Roses and YouTube prompted me the next video according to my interests – Hotel California. And, I was instantly hooked to this song.

To make this article a bit more sense, listen to this song first and keep scrolling for the lyrics whilst listening.

Lyrics

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 place)
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (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 place)
Such a lovely face.
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (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
They 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 check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’

These are beautiful lyrics of this wonderful song. So, now, coming to the interpretation of the lyrics; well, my other article ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ has two interpretations, well, this one has four; plus, the literal meaning by Don Henley, the songwriter.

First

Over the years, there have been a lot of speculations amongst the listeners and critics. Everybody has their own opinions and interpretations. But, there was one that was a common understanding of the song.

The song is based on a hotel in California. And, the two of the most happening places in the world are situated on this West-Coast state of the USA: Los Angeles.

The energy, adrenaline and rush for power and fake happiness are intense in these two cities; also called as High Life. It’s neither reality nor a dream; perhaps, it’s just a parallel universe without any worries in a different reality.

In simple word, Hotel California is a description of the surreal life & lifestyle in Los Angeles.

Second

I have come across this interpretation several times. Besides, the first time I heard it; it made a lot of sense. And I quote the words of a very special girl, “Hotel California is the depiction of a brothel where one enters for the first time in nervousness. The feeling is so good that the person gets hooked to. He (Because it’s a male voice) wants to quit this addiction, but, just can’t get enough.”

This consideration also makes a lot of sense. The time when this song was recorded, AIDS was touching the peak and prostitution seemed the easiest and most common manner of getting rid of stress. Along with stress, it also took care of one of the biggest driving forces of the human mind: SEX.

Third

The third interpretation is mine. This is how I perceived the song and it surely made a lot of sense to me. Whenever someone mentions California, the first thing that came to my mind was Las Vegas. Nonetheless, Google did correct my knowledge; Las Vegas is in Nevada and not California.

However, my understanding of the song is not about the geographical location of Las Vegas. But, when you read it; it shall make a lot of sense, irrespective of whether it’s Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

To me, the song talks about the concept of gambling. Gambling starts out like any other sport and before the person realizes; it’s an addiction. And, not just gambling in the casino. But, gambling of any kind; be, it the stock exchange, casino, lotto or even life. Leaving everything on luck and hoping for things to fall in place is gambling.

The record, Hotel California clearly states to me that once you feel the energy and kick of winning a gamble; you can never enjoy the similar high with any ecstasy. The feeling is so powerful that it makes you addicted to the adrenaline. But, power isn’t happiness. Thunders strike when you lose everything you possess in a single draw; sorrows and stress cover up the smile. Yet, the addiction is high. And, one feels the need to gamble is even more than before.

The last line made it evident to me,

“You can check out anytime you like,
But, you can never leave.”

Well, that’s the truth about gambling; and not just gambling. It’s true about addiction of any sorts. So, think twice and choose wisely before getting addicted to anything; or trying any addictive substance, let it be as common as caffeine or cigarettes.

Fourth

Recently, one of my co-workers gave her interpretation to me. And it did make a lot of sense. Maybe, just enough to convince me. Her interpretation is as simple as it could get. “You can move on but never forget.

When I asked her, how is it possible to learn this deep philosophy? She answered,

“You can check out anytime you like,
But, you can never leave.”

The above lines mean that you might move on from one thing, person or incident that caused great pain or relief; but, you can never forget the same thing, person or incident from the rest of your life.

Moving is life, however, at the same time, recollecting beautiful as well as dreadful memories make us humans.

It’s just like history; you read and forget as if it doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, you are defined by history; we are defined by history. All of us are in the exact place where we should be; it’s a law of the universe. You are always in the right place at the right time. You may feel silly while reading this, but, “It’s true. The world is governed by you and me. Everyone is equally responsible for the functioning of this universe. It may always not be smooth for us, but, our actions in the rough patches do make it smooth for someone else.”

If you can understand now, then it’s great; if not, then scroll back up and read the lyrics whilst listening to the song.

Don Henley’s

In the documentary History of the Eagles, Don Henley, the band’s lead singer and one of the co-writers of Hotel California mentioned that the song is nothing more than a “Journey from innocence to experience.” Well, even this makes sense.

The song started out like any other fairy-tale boyhood dream: Aspirations to be big – probably rich and famous. Then, the boy sees the girl and becomes weak at the knees.

As he transcends through the night, he realizes he has fallen for the girl. But, he must accept the fact that it is very little he can do about it as it’s all, but fairy dust. The inclusion of alcohol in the lyrics depicts the ageing of a human being, and never leaving can be a reference to the never-ending struggle for happiness.

The meaning seems dark and intense; but, that’s the song is all about. Besides, human life is about the same thing. When a baby is born, he/she is inexperienced; and he/she gives the happiest time to another human. But, when the same person passes away after ageing, all there is mourning and sadness. The interpretation is brutal, but, it’s the truth.

So, I end this article here. What do you think about these interpretations and the song? Also, if you have your own interpretation, do let us know in the comments below. Until then, listen to music and recommend topics to write a review on. Or, if you have written a review yourself; you can share it with us. Do visit the ‘Write for Us’ page.

Vatsal Vora

A writer with flair sense of writing and a creative mind which continues to explore new places to visit and quirky delicacies for the whole and sole purpose stating that life is given to us only once; why not experience the human emotions in the form of food rather than whining about the missed opportunities.
Vatsal Vora started his professional career as a client servicing executive to a writer and being the editor and founder of this blog. Working with just one motive: “No matter how it is done; it is supposed to be completed with quality and result being the integrated aspect of any work in hand.”
A believer of second chances and many more after them, because people tend to change, and once loved can always be loved again, just need time and enough confidence in the universe and more than required faith in oneself.

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