The Eagles – Hotel California
Released December, 1976
The Eagles formed in Los Angeles, California in 1971. They formed the band when two of the founding members, Don Henley and Glenn Frey were hired as session musicians to work on Linda Ronstadt’s album. The two had met previously in 1970, when Henley was playing in his band Shiloh and Frey was playing in Longbranch Pennywhistle. Henley and Frey met Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon (of Flying Burrito Brothers fame) when they joined the touring band with Ronstadt and shortly after, the Eagles were formed and signed to Asylum Records. The Eagles have earned themselves much appraise throughout their long career, including seven number one singles, six number one albums, six Grammy awards, and five American music awards, claiming their right to the title of one of the world’s greatest bands of all time, and undeniably one of the most successful acts of the 1970’s.
The band released one album every year from 1972 up until 1975: respectively “Eagles”, “Desperado”, “On the Border”, and “One of These Nights”. Collectively, these albums brought the Eagles seven top 40 singles and multiple Grammy nominations, among many other accolades. Some of their most popular and famous tracks off these albums included ‘Take it to the Limit’, ‘Take it Easy’, “Best of my Love”, “Desperado”, “Tequila Sunrise”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”.
Released in 1976, “Hotel California” was the band’s fifth studio album, and is now ranked among the top 20 best-selling albums of all time (in the US). In essence, “Hotel California” is country rock, erring on the side of rock. The album was the first to be released after Bernie Leadon left the band, and featuring his replacement Joe Walsh. Walsh’s addition to the band has been attributed to the band’s most convincing movement away from their previously strong country-rock sound and tendency towards a harder rock sound, as exhibited in ‘Life in the Fast Lane’.
The album took 1.5 years to record and was recorded whilst in the midst of a taxing touring schedule, which apparently made the process much more tedious and lengthy. It is perhaps fitting that the album was produced in these conditions; it’s a concept album, alluding to disenchantment with the Californian culture and way of life, and shedding light on the somewhat underbelly of the American West Coast lifestyle. The album tells the story of so many who made the journey to California to seek fame and fortune, but ended up getting swallowed up and spat out by the questionable lifestyle. This metaphor is no better summarised than in the title track ‘Hotel California’, with the ‘hotel’ symbolising the world in which so many young hopefuls got trapped, and could not cut loose (‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’).
I am of the opinion that the Eagles are one of the greatest and most talented bands that the world has ever seen, and potentially will ever see. You would be hard pressed to find a band with greater musicianship and vocal talents. No other Eagles album displays this talent better than “Hotel California”.
The title track ‘Hotel California’, with its famous guitar duet and memorable lyrics, has come to be the one song that is synonymous with the band, and is apparently one of the most common tracks you will find on a ‘favourite songs’ playlist, world-wide. I personally favour track 2 of the album, ‘New kid in town’, due to its pleasant soft rock vibe and the beautiful close harmonies that only the Eagles can do so well. ‘Life in the fast lane’ is another. With its funk-ish introduction and hard-rock sound, you can see how the band’s sound slowly developed from one of country, into the more popular rock sound of the late 70’s. Along with the 60’s legends Creedence Clearwater Recycled, the Eagles remain one of the more classic country/rock bands of all time, with an earthy sound that makes them relatable and popular even today. “Hotel California” is another classic road trip album that is pleasant to the ear, and just has something for everyone.
The Eagles had enjoyed a very successful career throughout the early 1970’s, but it was their fifth effort that launched them into super-stardom. The album’s biggest strengths are its great songs that boast fabulous harmonies, and in some instances, triple guitar interplay. It had been eighteen months between the release of this record and their 1975 album “One Of These Nights”. In that time, founding member Bernie Leadon quit the group to be replaced by Joe Walsh, who was starting to enjoy a purple patch as a solo artist after leaving The James Gang in 1970. His influence brought a rockier edge to the band’s West Coast country rock sound, particularly on the terrific ‘Life In The Fast Lane’. Walsh’s other contribution, the nostalgic ‘Pretty Maids All In A Row’ also features him on lead vocals. ‘Victim of Love’ was actually recorded live, without overdubs, which shows a bit of insight into their performance ethos. Although its one of the weaker tracks, there’s no denying the talent that went into writing and recording it. ‘New Kid in Town’ is the only song to have Glenn Frey on lead vocals, and its one of my favourites. ‘Wasted Time’ is lovely, but I’m not convinced the reprise was necessary. Bassist Randy Meisner’s ‘Try And Love Again’ is pleasant enough too. Meisner left The Eagles in September 1977, and that’s when Timothy B. Schmidt joined the band. The album’s absolute highlight for me is closing song ‘The Last Resort’, which laments the human race’s uncanny knack of destroying beautiful places. Don Henley’s voice just soars in all the right places. The last lyrics give me goosebumps: “They called it paradise/I don’t know why/You call some place paradise/Kiss it goodbye”. The less said about the title track the better. It’s a classic, you know it, I know it, let’s move on. I quite enjoyed this album nonetheless.
I don’t like mangoes. In fact I kind of hate them. I’ve tried to like mangoes. I even spent a month on a farm picking mangoes. The mango farmer was sure there would be one of the many varieties on the farm that I would like. “They all taste a bit different Ang. There has to be one you like”. The problem was they all kind of tasted like mangoes… and I don’t like mangoes. The point I’m trying to get at here is The Eagles are my musical mangoes. They weren’t on the original 70s list because it’s my blog and I do what I want. I was otherwise persuaded by the like of Dann DeWolff, so I added it to the preliminary list. You guys voted it in. To be fair, “Hotel California” really does deserve its place on this list. It has sold 32 million albums worldwide. That’s A LOT of albums. Show me someone who doesn’t know the lyrics to ‘Hotel California’ and I’ll show you a liar. The thing with The Eagles is I find them to be kind of bland. Full of sugary syrupiness. Kind of like mangoes. For someone singing about the wild west they sure sound pretty boring. Throw in a bit of guitar masturbation and you’ve lost me. And Henley’s voice reminds me of Brian Adams, which pretty much says it all really. I did my pre-requisite three listens this week. ‘Wasted Time (Reprise)’ kind of made me gag a little, a bit like the texture of mangoes. If you love mangoes then power to you. I fully support your mango eating ways. I however prefer both my fruit and music to have a bit more tartness to it.
The Eagles are one of those timeless rock bands that seem to never age. Their music is as fresh and relevant as it was in 70s, and God knows it’s better than anything that’s about now. “Hotel California” brought us the track the band is most famous for. The title track that scored the Eagles a Grammy for ‘Song of the Year’ among a slew of other accolades. It features at number 49 on Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’, and the outro guitar solo is ranked 8 on Guitar Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Guitar Solos’. I could easily use my word allowance on this track alone, but then I couldn’t talk about my favourite Eagles song! ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ tells the story of a couple living life to the maximum, but paying the price for it. Sure, the music is exceptional, just like all Eagles songs, but it’s the clear imagery that sells it for me. “He was a hard headed man, he was brutally handsome, she was terminally pretty.” And look! We have our first drummer/lead vocalist! Don Henley is one of an elite group of musicians who can work out aerobically and sing at his maximum capabilities. It’s not a thing that happens often, but it’s a thing to behold. The Eagles are more than capable of spine chilling piano, ‘Desperado’ is the obvious example, but the final track from Hotel California, ‘The Last Resort’ is none to shabby either. They love a good ballad (as do I) and this is one of the highest order. I’ve always listened to the Eagles, and I don’t suppose there’ll be a time I don’t. But a big thanks to the band for making this review easy to write, with zero tracks available on spotify.