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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Revisiting Hotel California - Eagles (1976)


 Hotel California - Eagles
Asylum Records
Produced by Bill Syzmczyk
Released 8th December 1976
US Chart #1
UK Chart #2
Australian Chart #1
Dutch Chart #1
New Zealand Chart #1

US 16x Platinum (Diamond with sales of 10 million)
UK 6x Platinum
Australia 8x Platinum
New Zealand 9x Platinum



Eagles
    Don Felder – guitars, pedal steel guitar, slide guitar, vocals
    Glenn Frey – guitars, piano, clavinet, synthesizer, vocals
    Don Henley – drums, percussion, synthesizer, vocals
    Randy Meisner – bass, guitarrĂ³n, vocals
    Joe Walsh – guitars, slide guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals

Side 1

Side 2

Singles Released from Hotel California
(Links Below Are For Live Versions)
(Belgian Picture Sleeve)

December 1976
US Chart #1
UK Chart #20
Belgian Chart #19

J.D. Souther had written the chorus the year before and had played it to the band but it wasn't until the recording of the Hotel California album that he sat down with Henley and Frey and they completed the lyrics.

Don Henley said in the liner notes to The Very Best of Eagles album that "It's about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance. It's also about the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business. We were basically saying, 'Look, we know we're red hot right now but we also know that somebody's going to come along and replace us - both in music and in love'."

There's a nice contribution on the song from Joe Walsh as well but not on the guitar but on piano and organ.

(UK Picture Sleeve)

February 1977
US Chart #1
UK Chart #8

The record label were not very keen to release the Title Track as a single unless it was edited down because it far exceeded the time for singles played on the radio at six and a half minutes. The band took a stand and refused and it was great they did because an edit of the song would have lost some of the magic about it.

The single won the 1977 Grammy Award For Record Of The Year.

There have been a fair few interesting interpretations about the song down through the years (google it I'm sure you'll find most of them).

 Henley has said "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 the 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles, Henley reiterated:

    "On just about every album we made, there was some kind of commentary on the music business, and on American culture in general. The hotel itself could be taken as a metaphor not only for the myth-making of Southern California, but for the myth-making that is the American Dream, because it is a fine line between the American Dream, and the American nightmare."


(German Picture Sleeve)

May 1977
US Chart #11

*********************** 

On the back of two #1 albums - One Of These Nights (1975) and Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (1976) the Los Angeles based Eagles bounced back into limelight with one of the biggest albums of 1976 (going into 1977) and their fifth studio project Hotel California.

Hard to believe that the album is forty years old today! I know there is always lots of debate regarding the worth of the Eagles and the music that they released over the years and how sometimes the Music Police try and pull you up for liking something that they don't think fits the type of person they assume you are. Well personally I've never really cared too much what the Music Police have to say and although at the time of this release I was beginning to lean towards Punk and New Wave there was no letting go of the fact that here was an album brimming over with musical delights and wonderful songwriting.

I can remember hearing the title track on Nicky Horne's Your Mother Wouldn't Like It Show on Captial Radio and just being floored by the epic guitar coda that finishes off the song to fade (performed by both Walsh and Felder), and sitting quietly and pondering every word of The Last Resort - which to this day I think is one of the best, if not The Best lyric that Don Henley has ever penned! Glenn Frey said that Henley really found himself as lyricist with the song and that "he out did himself".

I'd always been impressed by the wealth of talent the Eagles had in their ranks. Good songwriters, vocalists and musicians and on Hotel California, whilst the majority of lead vocals are by drummer Don Henley (a multi-tasking drummer - almost unheard of today!), Joe Walsh gets a shot at singing his most "unlike Joe Walsh" song - Pretty Maids All In A Row, Bassist Randy Meisner sings his song Try And Love Again, and Glenn Frey takes the lead on New Kid In Town.

With regard to the writing Henley and Frey are the dominant team and with Don Felder they co-wrote Victim of Love and Hotel CaliforniaJ.D. Souther added some touches to Victim of Love and New Kid In Town; Life In The Fast Lane was born from that opening riff played by Joe Walsh in a rehearsal and a song was crafted around it; and then as I already mentioned above Walsh and Meisner each contributed a song. Jim Ed Norman also gets a credit for the instrumental Wasted Time (Reprise) with regard to his String Arrangement on the track.

Just in passing whilst it's in my head, this was actually the first Eagles album to feature Joe Walsh as he replaced founding member Bernie Leadon and also the last album for Randy Meisner who departed the band after some health issues throughout the Hotel California Tour of 1976-77. His replacement would be Timothy B. Schmit (who strangely enough had also replaced Meisner when he departed Poco to join the Eagles!).

Interview with Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Randy Meisner.

Don Felder's Original Demo Cassette for Hotel California

Overall there's not a bad track on the album and forty years later it still sounds great I think, there's not a lot of albums you could still say that about!


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