We all know the perilous times we’re in nearly fifty years after the Eagles revealed the location of the Hotel California. Not on any map or travel brochure, it featured absolutely the best music: “New Kid in Town”,”Life in the Fast Lane”, the achingly honest loving and losing “Wasted Time”, the searing “Victim of Love”, the epic “The Last Resort”. And Don Felder’s “electric Mexican reggae”, as Glenn Frey called it, on “Hotel California”title song. Don Henley takes your reservation, Joe Walsh shows you to your room, and Eagles co-founder the late Glenn Frey is the night clerk, all on duty for the Eagles’ Hotel California story here In the Studio .Even before Hotel California, driving halfway across America in March 1976 is when I first realized just how massively popular The Eagles truly had become. This was long before 21st century satellite radio, so driving 1400 miles from Lincoln NE to Hartford CT meant re-tuning the car radio about every seventy-five miles or so to a new local station. And every one, whether AM or FM, big city signal or small, was playing “One of These Nights“,”Lyin’ Eyes”, and “Take It to the Limit” as if their FCC licenses depended on it. All three of those hits from the album One of These Nights went Top 10, with the album topping the Billboard sales chart and eventually winning a Grammy.
So for the Eagles next effort, did the band have anything prove? No way. Had their four platinum and multi-platinum albums in a row set the expectations bar exceedingly high? You bet, yet Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, Don Felder, and newest guitar player Joe Walsh ( replacing Bernie Leadon) and the impressive combination of cinematic vision, songcraft, and high tech production seemed to be coming from a place in the near future to which the rest of rock would have to catch up.
“Don (Henley) and I admired the nerve that (Donald) Fagen and (Walter) Becker had in their lyrics,” the late Glenn Frey admitted to me regarding Steely Dan when asked about the imagery in the song “Hotel California”. “They did bold things lyrically. With ‘Hotel California’ Henley and I started talking about writing a song where you didn’t have to explain what everything meant…And be a little weird for the sake of being weird, or not having to have every line in your song make absolute sense. And I guess what we achieved is perfect ambiguity, where people read things into that song that were beyond our wildest ideas about what that song meant.”
It is indicative of the incalculable loss to music and pop culture that was the January 2016 death of Eagles co-founder and visionary Glenn Frey who, along with Henley & Walsh, have the last word here in this classic rock interview on Hotel California at check-out time. –Redbeard