- Written by Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, this song is about materialism and excess. California is used as the setting, but it could relate to anywhere in America. Don Henley in the London Daily Mail November 9, 2007 said: "Some of the wilder interpretations of that song have been amazing. It was really about the excesses of American culture and certain girls we knew. But it was also about the uneasy balance between art and commerce."
- On November 25, 2007 Henley appeared on the TV news show 60 Minutes, where he was told, "everyone wants to know what this song means." Henley replied: "I know, it's so boring. It's a song about the dark underbelly of the American Dream, and about excess in America which was something we knew about." He offered yet another interpretation in the 2013 History of the Eagles documentary: "It's a song about a journey from innocence to experience."
- California is seen from the perspective of an outsider here. Bernie Leadon was the only band member at the time who was from the state (Timothy B. Schmit, who joined in 1977, was also from California). Joe Walsh came from New Jersey; Randy Meisner from Nebraska; Don Henley was from Texas; Glenn Frey was from Detroit, and Don Felder was from Florida. In our interview with Don Felder, he explained: "As you're driving in Los Angeles at night, you can see the glow of the energy and the lights of Hollywood and Los Angeles for 100 miles out in the desert. And on the horizon, as you're driving in, all of these images start coming into your mind of the propaganda and advertisement you've experienced about California. In other words, the movie stars, the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, the beaches, bikinis, palm trees, all those images that you see and that people think of when they think of California start running through your mind. You're anticipating that. That's all you know of California." Don Henley put it this way: "We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest. Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles."
- Glenn Frey: "That record explores the underbelly of success, the darker side of Paradise. Which was sort of what we were experiencing in Los Angeles at that time. So that just sort of became a metaphor for the whole world and for everything you know. And we just decided to make it Hotel California. So with a microcosm of everything else going on around us."
- Don Felder: "I had just leased this house out on the beach at Malibu, I guess it was around '74 or '75. I remember sitting in the living room, with all the doors wide open on a spectacular July day. I had this acoustic 12-string and I started tinkling around with it, and those Hotel California chords just kind of oozed out. Every once in a while it seems like the cosmos part and something great just plops in your lap."
- This won the 1977 Grammy for Record of the Year. The band did not show up to accept the award, as Don Henley did not believe in contests. Timothy B. Schmit had just joined the band, and he says they watched the ceremony on TV while they were rehearsing.
- Don Felder came up with the musical idea for this song. According to his book Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles, he came up with the idea while playing on the beach. He had the chord progressions and basic guitar tracks, which he played for Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who helped finish the song, with Henley adding the lyrics. Felder says they recorded the song about a year after he did the original demo, and in the session, he started to improvise the guitar part at the end. Henley stopped him and demanded that he do it exactly like the demo, so he had to call his wife and have her play the cassette demo over the phone so Felder could remember what he played.
- The lyric, "Warm smell of colitas," is often interpreted as sexual slang or a reference to marijuana. When we asked Don Felder about the term, he said: "The colitas is a plant that grows in the desert that blooms at night, and it has this kind of pungent, almost funky smell. Don Henley came up with a lot of the lyrics for that song, and he came up with colitas." The Eagles aimed for a full sensory experience in their songwriting. Felder adds, "When we try to write lyrics, we try to write lyrics that touch multiple senses, things you can see, smell, taste, hear. 'I heard the mission bell,' you know, or 'the warm smell of colitas,' talking about being able to relate something through your sense of smell. Just those sort of things. So that's kind of where 'colitas' came from."
- This was recorded at three different sessions before the Eagles got the version they wanted. The biggest problem was finding the right key for Henley's vocal.
- Glenn Frey compared this song to an episode of The Twilight Zone, where it jumps from one scene to the next and doesn't necessarily make sense. He said the success of the song comes from the audience creating stories in their minds based on the images.
- The line, "They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast" is a reference to Steely Dan. The bands shared the same manager (Irving Azoff) and had a friendly rivalry. The year before, Steely Dan included the line "Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening" on their song "Everything You Did."
- Don Felder and Joe Walsh played together on the guitar solos, creating the textured sound.
- The lyrics for the song came with the album. Some listeners thought the line "She's got the Mercedes Bends" was a misspelling of "Mercedes Benz," not realizing the line was a play on words.
- The hotel on the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel, known as the Pink Palace. It is often frequented by Hollywood stars. The photo was taken by photographers David Alexander and John Kosh, who sat in a cherry-picker about 60 feet above Sunset Boulevard to get the shot of the hotel at sunset from above the trees. The rush-hour traffic made it a harrowing experience.
- Although it is well known that Hotel California is actually a metaphor, there are several strange Internet theories and urban legends about the "real" Hotel California. Some include suggestions that it was an old church taken over by devil worshippers, a psychiatric hospital, an inn run by cannibals or Aleister Crowley's mansion in Scotland. It's even been suggested that the "Hotel California" is the Playboy Mansion.
- According to a reader-submitted poll for Guitar World magazine, the guitar solo for this song is ranked #8 out of 100.
Thanks for reading!