Preceded by: One of These Nights (1975)
Followed by: The Long Run (1979)
Related to: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu
Hotel California from the Eagles, another real classic album. You love it or you hate it. Jeffrey Lebowski and punk hated it, I still love it. Hotel California was the last call for help from the so called Westcoast-scene, a call from maybe it’s most famous representatives: the Eagles.
It’s 1976 and this is the Eagles’ fifth studio album, featuring the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard on it’s cover. Peace and love dominated the American Westcoast during the early seventies. Next to psychedelic bands like Jefferson Airplane, another music style was born there. Musicians like The Mama’s and the Papa’s; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and The Byrds lived in Laurel Canyon and came together in ‘The Troubadour’, a club where Neil Young gave his first performances in the US and Tom Waits was discovered during an amateur night. The Eagles also used to hang out there, although none of the members were actually from California. What all those artists have in common are polyphonic vocal harmonies, melody and a melancholic tone.
However, around 1976 the spirit of peace and love was turning into cynical hedonism and the Eagles came up with ‘Hotel California’ as a metaphor for this decline into materialism and decadence. The concept album was a mind-blowing success, as 16 million copies of the soundtrack of decadent times were sold in the US alone.
So what’s on it? The first three tracks immediately became top 20 singles, starting with the famous title track. Personally, I find it one of those rare rock evergreens that don’t start to annoy after a while. It’s about the traveler becoming trapped in this creepy luxury hotel, an allegory for the self-destructing music scene at that time (late seventies). Absolute highlight of the song is of course the guitar duet towards the end between Don Felder and Joe Walsh.
‘New Kid in Town’ (about the ease of being replaced in the music industry) was the second number one hit, and won a Grammy for Best Arrangement for Voices. It was followed by ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, a more hard rock, riff-based song about a couple’s excessive lifestyle. The last track of side one on the LP is ‘Wasted Time’, a ballad about lost lifes, including an instrumental reprise.
One of the Eagles’ best songs is without any doubt the final track of this album, the epic ‘The Last Resort’. The fragile voice of Don Henley tells us very delicately about mankind destroying every place he finds beautiful. Paradise is being screwed up and at some point there will be no new frontiers…
Hotel California proved to be a predictive album, as the LA scene perished due to its success some years later: Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles itself became cold money machines, the price of dope was determined by the purchase of David Crosby and Brian Wilson was lying coked up on his bed for 3 years. Enjoy this essential part of rock history.