Don Felder’s Defense Against ‘Hotel California’ Accusations
When The Eagles’ released their fifth studio album ‘Hotel California’ in 1976, the self-titled lead track was a major commercial success. Both the album and the song topped the national and international charts. As the single achieved wide critical acclaim, the song is still considered among one of the best rock tracks that have ever been produced. With the major recognition the song received, accusations regarding the origins of ‘Hotel California’ followed.
The allegations of stolen lyrics was and still is relatively common in the music industry. However, when the accusation were made by another major band’s member, Jethro Tull’s frontman Ian Anderson, the audience started hearing the resemblance between ‘Hotel California’ and one of the British band’s songs.
As the Eagles were the opening act for Jethro Tull in 1972 as the two bands toured together. At the time, Jethro Tull was a critically acclaimed band whereas the Eagles had just started climbing the ladder of fame. During the performances, Jethro Tull performed their hits and their 1969 song ‘We Used To Know‘ was also featured in the band’s set-list. It was later realized that the song was similar to 1976’s ‘Hotel California.’
Had ‘Hotel Caliornia’ Been Plagiarized?
Ian Anderson had previously discussed this matter and stated that it was possible that the Eagles were subconsciously affected by ‘We Used To Know.’ For Anderson, the case perhaps was that the band had overheard the song during Jethro Tull’s shows and as the Eagles liked the melody, they reflected the sound onto their music without being fully aware of it.
“The Eagles probably heard us play the song because that would have featured in the sets back then, and maybe it was just something they kind of picked up on subconsciously and introduced that chord sequence into their famous song ‘Hotel California’ sometime later.”
‘Hotel California’s composer Don Felder, however, debunked the accusations. It is known that Felder joined the Eagles in 1974, two years after the tour in question. Besides stressing that he didn’t travel with Jethro Tull on the tour, Don Felder also recalled the day he composed the hit song at a beach house in Malibu.
“I remember sitting in the living room on a spectacular July day with the doors wide open. I had a bathing suit on and was sitting on this couch, soaking wet, thinking the world is a wonderful place to be. I had this acoustic 12-string and started tinkling around with it, and those ‘Hotel California’ chords just kind of oozed out.”
Despite Felder’s statement, Ian Anderson said that these types of resemblances are natural between artists. The musician noted that most of the chords that rockers play are often overused, and due to this reason, melodies may sound similar to one another.
“It’s not plagiarism. It’s just the same chord sequence. It’s in a different time signature, different key, different context… It’s difficult to find a chord sequence that hasn’t been used and hasn’t been the focus of lots of pieces of music. Harmonic progression—it’s almost a mathematical certainty that you’re gonna crop up with the same thing sooner or later if you’re strumming a few chords on a guitar.”
You can listen to ‘We Used To Know’ and ‘Hotel California’ below.