– Hotel California
The title track to Hotel California, the classic and third-best selling album of all time, is a supreme cultural touchstone that is affixed to the American popular consciousness in a way no other song ever has.
“I heard the song ‘Hotel California’ in all its stages,” says Irving Azoff, the band’s longtime manager when asked his reaction to first hearing the song. “I was fortunate to be around the writing sessions as well as the recording sessions and words can’t describe the transformation it undertook from start to finish. But we all knew that it was an incredible work. I don’t think anyone could have ever predicted its impact 50 years later.”
Indeed, it would have been impossible to know its influence on subsequent generations, including: alt-R&B musician Frank Ocean jacking the song wholesale for “American Wedding” from his acclaimed Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape; its use in the opening episode of “The Sopranos” third season with Tony working out to the song after the FBI had bugged his home; or the Gipsy Kings’ version from “The Big Lebowski” introducing a purple-clad Jesus Quintana (played awesomely by John Turturro) while he tongued his purple bowling ball and air-dried his hands.
The song’s dark narrative filled with nightmarish imagery of stabbing beasts with steely knives, hearing voices, becoming a prisoner of your own device while checking out but never leaving made for endless Tiffany-twisted theories. Pick your allegory. It’s a commentary on Hollywood decadence, America’s lost innocence or just a bad acid trip, man. Some said it was an homage to “The Magus,” a book by John Fowles and surreal 1968 film starring Michael Caine, Candice Bergen and Anthony Quinn or an oblique reference to Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.
One thing for sure, after Hotel California’s release in late 1976, the band’s touring profile went through the open-air roof with stadium gigs in Miami, Houston, Milwaukee and beyond. In March 1977, a Washington Post review noted, “Outside, before the show, scalpers were selling tickets for as much as $25,” over two-and-a-half times the $9.50 face value of a ticket stub we found. The writer noted this “suggests that these two concerts [at Landover, Md.’s Capital Centre] are the pop event of the year thus far and that the Eagles are rock’s most popular all-American band.” Some things never change.