Those who grew up listening to the Eagles may recall when the song Hotel California came out. It wasn’t long that rumors began circulating about the song’s mystical meaning. Before long, religious zealots determined it was written about Satanism, or the church of Satan. The song then became tied in with many other songs considered to be evil, such as Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, and kids were either forced to stop listening or had to listen to it in secrecy.
So what does the song Hotel California really represent or what is it about, you may ask? Besides the speculation of it being about Satanism there has been guesses at the theme representing insanity, drug addiction, temptation, and shallow relationships. Members of the band won’t break the song out line by line to explain its meaning but overall say it is about the hedonism of the United States and the destruction of the Southern California music industry. Don Henley, band member who wrote most of the song adds, “it’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.”
In an interview with ZigZag magazine before the album’s release, Henley added “This is a concept album, there’s not way to hide it, but it’s not set in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It’s more urban this time…it’s our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States or the whole world, if you will, and try to wake people up and say, “we’ve been okay so far, for 200 years, but we’re gonna have to change if we’re gonna continue to be around.”
Despite the explanation there are some who have tried to capitalize on the song’s success. Owner of the hotel in Mexico, Todos Santos, say his hotel was home to the Eagles who wrote Hotel California from its rooms. Rumor turned into legend. According to Snopes.com, none of the Eagles band members ever stayed in the hotel.
Others say Hotel California was the nickname of the Camarillo State psychiatric hospital near Los Angeles. But there have been no facts to verify that either. Other odd rumors about the album include: it’s a place ran by cannibals who only take guests that they serve up for dinner – this is based on the lyrics “You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Or the song is about drug addiction due to the lyrics, “Warm smell of colitis rising through the air”, which does refer to the scent of burning marijuana, and that Hotel California is a code name for cocaine use and the journey into addiction.
Then there is the belief that the Hotel California represent satanic master Aleister Crowley’s mansion near Loch Ness, where weird happenings occurred. Crowley’s nickname was “The Beast”.
Despite the rumors, the song was a success, and the album Hotel California ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the United States. And there certainly is no mystery in the fact the album sold over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone and was #1 for eight weeks in early 1977.