Hotel California by the Eagles and Salman Rushdie.

Wow! I realised I hadn’t understood anything to the song, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, song  I used to listen to every single day when it was released, at full blast, in my old Oldsmobile in 1976/77 on my way to work. I was in my very early twenties then with much naïvety. I loved that song sending chills down my spine: the solo guitar, the drums, the voices without paying much attention to the words I used to sing my head off while driving. More than 4 decades have gone by and it was only this weekend I questioned that song after watching a TV programme on Salman Rushdie presenting his new book ” The Golden House”, a parable of modern America and dealing with the underbelly of The States. 

Over the weekend, I didn’t stop thinking of the lyrics of the Eagles’song. My, my, was I  lacking  a deep insight as a youngster in those years, despite my reading lots of stuff about the beat generation mainly reading kerouac, Burrougs, and Ginsberg. Never did I relate the Eagles’song to that period. Thanks to Rushdie and the net, I searched the meaning of the song. 

First of all, I missed the meaning of the word “colitas” which refers to drugs in Mexico and southern California.  “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”, said Henley, founding member and drummer of the Eagles. 

” Steely knives” could refer to the needles to inject heroin; and the frightening end of the song:

“You can check out any time you like

 But you can never leave!”

Has this ending of the song anything to do with a rehab? Reference to alcohol as well in the lyrics: ” So I called up the Captain: “” Please bring me my wine””.

“Plenty of room at the Hotel California, mirrors on the ceiling, all prisoners here on our own device … “. Shall I add it looks like a brothel as well ( shimmering lights, candle, she has lots of pretty, pretty boys, pink champagne, sweet summer sweat, some dance to remember, some dance to forget …) 

Trapped! Something is really out of control here! Does it mean young adults were being destroyed by the “living it up in California” and turning them into psychic disabled human beings because of all sorts of excess? Alcohol, drugs, sex … Maybe the place could be associated with a loony bin, who knows?

Despite the very dark side of this song which I totally missed and even if I know better nowadays, I still do love that song and its terrific music.