The Eagles: Hotel California

“This is a concept album, there’s no way to hide it, but [unlike the Eagles’ earlier concept album, 1973’s Desperado] it’s not set in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It’s more urban this time (…) It’s our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake people up and say ‘We’ve been okay so far, for 200 years, but we’re gonna have to change if we’re gonna continue to be around.’” – Don Henley

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

The Eagles. Enough said.

I really looked forward to listening to this album and funnily enough, I enjoyed it immensely. Why did I look forward to this listen more than others? Well, I love the harmonic structure and the “can’t help but sing along” quality of the song “Hotel California.” This album did not disappoint in the slightest.

The first thing that I learned upon listening was that “Life in the Fast Lane” is an Eagles song. I had no idea. I played that in the high school pep band and was familiar with the structure and melodic contour of the song. It’s an Eagles song? Really? Really completely fantastic!

From this album, there are three Top 20 singles! “New Kid in Town”, “Hotel California”, and “Life in the Fast Lane.” This album is ranked #37 on the Rolling Stone list and #38 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time.

This album was the Eagles’ fifth studio album and was immediately successful when released in 1976. It has since sold over 16 million copies in the US alone!

This album has been described by members of the Eagles as a metaphor for the perceived decline of America into materialism and decadence and is very much a concept album. The Eagles were attempting to make a statement during the bicentennial about the state of the American people and what needs to happen if this country is going to continue to survive and be a power in the world. It’s an interesting concept and I could see how hard it would be to get that to come across in an album with a limited amount of tracks and length. This album is a powerhouse. It grips as you listen and is trying to get this idea into you.

Some of the way that language was used is really interesting. I would have to relisten to certain parts of certain songs to make sure I heard that correctly. For instance, in the beginning of “Life in the Fast Lane”, it says “He was brutally handsome, and she was terminally pretty.” Terminally pretty. That paints a picture, no? “There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face/She pretended not to notice, she was caught up in the race.” These are not just lyrics, this is poetry. These words paint a picture, tell a story, draw in the listener.

Let’s take a quick look at the words for “Hotel California.” Now, everyone knows this song. I love this song. This song tells a story and we all know that it tells a story. The words for this song evoke multisensory reactions. Sight: “Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light…”; Sound: “I heard the mission bell…There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say…”; Smell: “Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air…”; Touch: “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…” Now, folks, this is just the first verse alone. If you look at the second verse you get more details of the players. “Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends/She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends…” Then you get one of my favorite lines from this song: “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.” Man. Poetry.

This album is definitely one to mark down as to collect. I have not even touched on the musical aspects. Sheesh. Go listen and listen and listen.

The Eagles:

  • Don Felder: guitars, pedal steel guitar, vocals
  • Glenn Frey: guitars, piano, clavinet, synthesizer, vocals
  • Don Henley: drums, percussion, synthesizer, vocals
  • Randy Meisner: bass guitar, guitarrón, vocals
  • Joe Walsh: guitars, slide guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals

 

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