Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
49 – The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’
Writers: Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley
Producer: Bill Szymczyk
Released: Dec. ’76, Asylum
19 weeks; No. 1
“Hotel California” was rumored to be about heroin addiction or Satan worship, but Henley had more prosaic things on his mind: “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest,” he said. “‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.” (That doesn’t preclude heroin or Satan, of course.) Recording the six-and-a-half-minute song posed its share of problems: Working in Miami, the Eagles were initially unable to re-create Felder’s 12-string intro and elaborate twin-guitar coda. Panicked, Felder called his housekeeper in L.A. and sent her digging through a pile of tapes in his home studio so she could play his demo back over the phone.
Appears on: Hotel California (Elektra)
• The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Hotel California
The Eagles – Hotel California
“Hotel California” is the title track from the Eagles’ album of the same name and was released as a single in February 1977. 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 is considered the most famous recording by the band, and its long guitar coda has been voted the best guitar solo of all time by readers of Guitarist in 1998. The song was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978. The lyrics of the song have been given various interpretations by fans and critics alike, the Eagles themselves describing the song as their “interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles”. In the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles, Henley said that the song was about “a journey from innocence to experience… that’s all…”
Since its release, “Hotel California” has been covered by a number of artists and has become a part of international popular culture. Julia Phillips proposed adapting the song into a film, but the members of the Eagles disliked the idea and it never came to fruition. Commercially, “Hotel California” reached the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top ten of several international charts.
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