The Time Don Henley Shut Down The All Speculations Over Hotel California’s Story
The Eagles released ‘Hotel California’ in 1977 and became the band’s most famous and successful song. The song was so acclaimed that film producers wanted to make its story into a film, but the band didn’t agree. The song was written by Don Felder, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey. It was a visual song from the beginning until the end which lasts for six and a half minutes. The song is also known for its ability to take the listener on a journey in a hotel in California.
The lyrics of the song are not quite complicated, which begins by giving the atmosphere of the location of the hotel then the protagonist pulls up to the hotel to rest but is faced with distorted imagery, and people telling him that he cannot escape. The intensity of the events in the song allowed people to interpret it in many different ways throughout the years.
The most common interpretation of the song was that the man was entering the church of Satan. The references to Heaven and Hell and the fact that ‘you can never leave’ the hotel resemble the oath one would take with your blood to bind themselves to Satan. This also explains the line, ‘we’re all just prisoners here, of our own device.’ However, Don Henley once clarified what the song was really about.
What Is ‘Hotel California’ Really About?
Even though the Satanism theory makes sense and helpes the song become even more intense for people to listen to, The Eagles’ Don Henley refuted the claim and stated that it is not about Satanism. He revealed its story in an interview with Rob Rush in 2019. Apparnetly, the song is about the highs of Los Angeles, how people end up there with expectations and let themselves go to the highs eventually facing a downfall, or meeting ‘weird’ people.
Here is how he told the entire meaning:
“I’ve probably heard four or five hundred explanations about what the song’s about, all of which are wrong. There’s no Satanic factor or devil-worshipping, or any weird stuff like that. It has nothing to do with any of that. Really, it’s just the song about the underbelly industry in Los Angeles, how it can be less than beautiful. There are some important lines in that song, a little salute to Steely Dan.
They have this line in one of their songs that says, ‘Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening’ – or fighting or something so we gave them back a salute in response to that lyric by writing something about Steely Dan. We had ‘steely knives,’ which is kind of the same thing. And then Jackson Browne’s wife, who was struggling to be an actress, constantly going to auditions and being turned down, rejected, actually wound up committing suicide because of her depression from living in LA. That’s the other ugly part of the underbelly of the industry, and the last line in the song, ‘You can never leave,’ it’s a salute to her.”
Henley must have thought this explanation was necessary to end all the Satanic references. The song is still listened to widely and lives in people’s minds with its powerful lyrics. Now that The Eagles’ fans know that the song is about the LA experience, they can perhaps listen to it considering that and form new meanings for themselves.
If you’re a fan of the song too, you can re-listen to it under the LA allegory below.