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Signature Songs: Hotel California – Eagles

Some songs are so iconic, they eclipse everything else in an artist’s catalog.

These songs are signature songs, the songs artists become associated with for the rest of their careers and for future generations.

Artists with signature songs are not to be confused with one-hit wonders who have only one successful song over the entirety of their careers.

Signature songs are simply the songs most people recognize by an artist, the ones even non-fans know, the ones crowds at every concert can sing along to.

For the Eagles, that song is “Hotel California.”

Hotel California by the Eagles

“Hotel California” is a strange song to be such an enduring hit.

The imagery is intense, and the theme is wide open to interpretation.

The only thing we know for sure is the lyrics are based on the 1965 novel The Magus by John Fowles and the group’s desire to create something “strange.”

Mission accomplished.

Eagles Hotel California album cover

Hotel California Stats

“Hotel California” topped the U.S. Billboard Chart on May 7, 1977 and, like all the Eagles’ other chart-topping hits, remained there for only a single week.

This might make the song seem questionable as the band’s signature hit. At least as far as the charts go.

Not only did four other Eagles’ songs top the Hot 100, two of them performed better on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.

And one of them, “New Kid In Town,” charted in Country.

So, how exactly did “Hotel California,” a song that wasn’t the Eagles’ biggest hit in the U.S., end up their signature song?

International appeal.

“Hotel California” performed better than the Eagles’ other hits in Canada and overseas, charting the highest of all their singles in the most countries and selling more copies as a result.

This cross-market appeal made “Hotel California” the Eagles’ best-selling single – their only single to be certified platinum.

Why was it so successful?

“Hotel California” is an eerie song. It’s meant to be eerie.

It’s also nothing less than a great story song.

There are multiple clever and memorable lyrics that burst with imagery, immersing you in its weird, dark world.

It even has somewhat of a twist ending.

Is it that the Eagles’ succeeded in doing exactly what they attempted to do with this song that made it so successful?

Did they write a song just like a movie?

And did audiences just happen to love the sinister movie they wrote?


It’s also possible some of those “open to interpretation” lyrics have interpretations that hit home for people in a lot of different ways.

I once had a boss tell me at a job I was getting ready to quit –

“Don’t you know ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave?’”

So, I guess that says something about the song’s lyrical staying power.

Hotel California Songwriters

“Hotel California” was written by three members of the Eagles – Glenn Frey, Don Felder & Don Henley.

Hotel California Lyrics

On a dark desert highway
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas
Rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance
I saw shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
This could be Heaven or this could be Hell
Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (any time of year)
You can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted
She got the Mercedes Benz
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
She calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember
Some dance to forget

So I called up the Captain
Please bring me my wine
He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here”
“Since 1969”
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, ‘We are all just prisoners here”
“Of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax,” said the night man
“We are programmed to receive”
“You can check-out any time you like”
“But you can never leave!”

Hotel California (2013 Remaster)

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