Hotel California (Eagles album)

Hotel California is the fifth studio album by American rock band the Eagles. The album was recorded by Bill Szymczyk at the Criteria and Record Plant studios between March and October 1976, and then released on Asylum in December. It was their first album with guitarist Joe Walsh, who had replaced founding member Bernie Leadon, and is the last album to feature bassist Randy Meisner. The front cover is a photograph of the Beverly Hills Hotel by David Alexander.

Hotel California
Hotelcalifornia.jpg
Studio album by
the Eagles
ReleasedDecember 8, 1976[1]
RecordedMarch – October 1976
StudioCriteria Studios, Miami, FL and Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA
GenreRock
Length43:28
LabelAsylum
ProducerBill Szymczyk
Eagles chronology
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)
(1976)
Hotel California
(1976)
The Long Run
(1979)
Singles from Hotel California
  1. "New Kid in Town"
    Released: December 7, 1976[1]
  2. "Hotel California"
    Released: February 22, 1977[1]
  3. "Life in the Fast Lane"
    Released: May 3, 1977[1]

Hotel California topped the US Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart. At the 20th Grammy Awards, the Eagles won a Grammy Award for "Hotel California", which won Record of the Year, and for "New Kid in Town". The album was nominated for Album of the Year but lost to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Three singles were released from the album, with two topping the Billboard Hot 100, "New Kid in Town" and "Hotel California", whilst "Life in the Fast Lane" reached No. 11.

A 40th anniversary special edition of Hotel California was released in November 2017. Hotel California is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It has been certified 26× Platinum in the US, and has sold over 32 million copies worldwide, making it the band's best-selling album after Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975). It has been ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2003 and 2012, it was ranked number 37 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

ThemeEdit

The first song written for the album was "Hotel California", which became the theme for the album.[2] Henley said of the themes of the songs in the album:

They're the same themes that run through all of our work: loss of innocence, the cost of naiveté, the perils of fame, of excess; exploration of the dark underbelly of the American dream, idealism realized and idealism thwarted, illusion versus reality, the difficulties of balancing loving relationships and work, trying to square the conflicting relationship between business and art; the corruption in politics, the fading away of the Sixties dream of "peace, love and understanding."[2]

On the title "Hotel California", Henley said that "the word, 'California,' carries with it all kinds of connotations, powerful imagery, mystique, etc., that fires the imaginations of people in all corners of the globe. There's a built-in mythology that comes with that word, an American cultural mythology that has been created by both the film and the music industry."[2] In an interview with the Dutch magazine ZigZag shortly before the album's release, Don Henley said:

This is a concept album, there's no way to hide it, but it's not set in the old West, the cowboy thing, you know. It's more urban this time (…) It's our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake people up and say 'We've been okay so far, for 200 years, but we're gonna have to change if we're gonna continue to be around.'"[3]

CompositionEdit

Bernie Leadon, who was the principal country influence in the band, left the band after the release of the previous album One of These Nights. For Hotel California, the band made a conscious decision to move away from country rock, and wrote some songs that are more rock & roll, such as "Victim of Love" and "Life in the Fast Lane". Leadon was replaced by Joe Walsh who provided the opening guitar riff of "Life in the Fast Lane" that was then developed into the song. The title for "Life in the Fast Lane" was inspired by a conversation between Frey and his drug dealer during a high speed car ride.[4]

The melody of the title track, "Hotel California", was written by Don Felder. Don Henley wrote most of the lyrics, with contributions from Glenn Frey. Henley noted that hotel had become a "literal and symbolic focal point of their lives at that time", and it became the theme of the song. Frey wanted the song to be "more cinematic", and to write it "just like it was a movie". Henley sought inspiration for the lyrics by driving out into the desert, as well as from films and theatre.[5] Parts of the lyrics of "Hotel California" as well as the song "Wasted Time" were based on Henley's break up with his then girlfriend Loree Rodkin.[6][7]

Frey, in the "Hotel California" episode of In the Studio with Redbeard, spoke about the writing of "The Last Resort". Frey said: "It was the first time that Don took it upon himself to write an epic story and we were already starting to worry about the environment… we're constantly screwing up paradise and that was the point of the song and that at some point there is going to be no more new frontiers. I mean we're putting junk, er, garbage into space now."[8]

RecordingEdit

The album was recorded between March and October 1976 at Criteria Studios, Miami, FL and Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA, and produced by Bill Szymczyk.[9] Although the band favored Los Angeles, the producer Szymczyk wanted to record in Miami as he had developed a fear of living on a fault line in Los Angeles after experiencing an earthquake, and a compromise was then struck to split the recording at both places.[4] While the band were recording the album, Black Sabbath were recording Technical Ecstasy in an adjacent studio at Criteria Studios in Miami. The band was forced to stop recording on numerous occasions because Black Sabbath were too loud and the sound was coming through the wall.[10] The last track of the album, "The Last Resort" had to be re-recorded a number of times due to noise from the next studio.[4]

For the title track "Hotel California", after the arrangement and instrumentation had been refined, several takes were recorded. The best parts were then spliced together, in all 33 edits on the two‑inch master, to create the final version.[9] In contrast, "Victim of Love" was recorded in a live session in studio apart from the lead vocal and the harmony on the choruses which were added later. Don Felder initially sang the lead vocals in the many early takes for the song, but the band felt that his efforts were not up to the required standard, and Henley then took over as the lead.[4]

According to Henley in a 1982 interview, the Eagles "probably peaked on Hotel California." Henley said: "After that, we started growing apart as collaborators and as friends."[11]

ArtworkEdit

 
Eagles performing "Hotel California" in 2010 with the image from the album cover in the background

The front cover artwork is a photograph of The Beverly Hills Hotel shot just before sunset by David Alexander with design and art direction by Kosh.[12] According to Kosh, Henley wanted him to find a place that can portray the Hotel California of the album title, and "portray it with a slightly sinister edge". Three hotels were photographed, and the one with The Beverly Hills Hotel was selected as the cover. The photographer shot the image 60 feet above Sunset Boulevard on top of a cherry picker.[13] As the image was taken from an unfamiliar vantage point in fading light, most people did not initially recognize the hotel. However, when the identity of Beverly Hills Hotel was revealed, the hotel threatened legal action over the use of the image.[4]

The rear album cover was shot in the lobby of the Lido Hotel in Hollywood.[14][15] The gatefold image shows the same lobby but filled with members of the band and their friends. Henley said: "I wanted a collection of people from all walks of life, It’s people on the edge, on the fringes of society." A shadowy figure appears on the balcony above the lobby, which led to speculations over the person's identity.[16]

Kosh designed a Hotel California logo as a neon sign which was used on the album cover and in its promotional materials. As it proved difficult to bend real neon tubings into the desired shape of the script, the neon effect of the logo was achieved with airbrush by Bob Hickson. Additional portraits of the band used in the album package and promotional materials were shot by Norman Seeff.[13]

ReleaseEdit

The album was released by Asylum Records on December 8, 1976, in vinyl, cassette and 8-track cartridge formats. It was considered for quadraphonic release in early 1977, but this idea was dropped following the demise of the quadraphonic format. On the album's 25th anniversary in 2001, it was released in a Multichannel 5.1 DVD-Audio disc. On August 17, 2011, the album was released on a hybrid SACD in Japan in The Warner Premium Sound series, containing both a stereo and a 5.1 mix.[17]

Original vinyl pressings of Hotel California (Elektra/Asylum catalog no. 7E-1084) had custom picture labels of a blue Hotel California logo with a yellow background. These also had text engraved in the run-out groove of each side, continuing an in-joke trend the band had started with their third album On the Border. The text reads: Side one: "Is It 6 O'Clock Yet?"; Side two: "V.O.L. Is Five-Piece Live", indicating that the song "Victim of Love" was recorded in a live session in studio, with no overdubbing. Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey confirm this on the inner booklet of The Very Best Of.[18] This only referred to the instrumental track, however; the lead vocal and harmony for the chorus were added later. This was in response to those who criticized the Eagles' practice of copious overdubbing of instruments and that they were too clinical and soulless in the studio. They wanted to demonstrate that they could play together without overdubs if they wanted to.[4]

A 40th anniversary deluxe edition was released on November 24, 2017. The set includes the original remastered album, and a second CD that features 10 live tracks from the concert at The Forum, recorded in October 1976 two months before the original release of the album.[19]

Critical receptionEdit

Retrospective professional reviews
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [20]
Christgau's Record GuideB[21]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [22]

Hotel California was met with generally positive reviews. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau felt it was their "most substantial if not their most enjoyable LP",[21] while Charley Walters of Rolling Stone felt it showcased "both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situated rock".[23] Both critics picked up on the album's California themes – Christgau remarking that while it may in places be "pretentious and condescending" and that "Don Henley is incapable of conveying a mental state as complex as self-criticism", the band couldn't have written the songs on side one "without caring about their California theme down deep";[21] Walters in contrast felt the "lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself", and that Don Henley's vocals express well "the weary disgust of a victim (or observer) of the region's luxurious excess".[23] Billboard gave the album high praise: "The casually beautiful, quietly-intense multileveled vocal harmonies and brilliant original songs that meld solid emotional words with lovely melody lines are all back in force, keeping the Eagles at the acme of acoustic electric soft rock." It noted that, even though the album did not try out any new departure other than the "Procol Harum-type" title track, "the album proves that there's a lot more left to explore profitably and artistically in the L.A. countryish-rock style."[24][25]

Retrospective reviews have also been positive. Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times, writing after the band broke up, called the album "a legitimate rock masterpiece", in which the band "examined their recurring theme about the American Dream with more precision, power and daring than ever in such stark, uncompromising songs as "Hotel California" and "The Last Resort"."[26] William Ruhlmann from AllMusic later said "Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band. It was a band that could be bombastic, but also one that made music worthy of the later tag of 'classic rock', music appropriate for the arenas and stadiums the band was playing."[20] Steve Holtje, writing for CultureCatch in 2012, felt that even though "an awful lot of the album is snarky whining from co-leaders Don Henley and Glenn Frey, two guys who didn't really seem like they had that much they could legitimately complain about", in the final analysis "Hotel California and the underrated concept album Desperado stand as the group's greatest statements".[27]

AccoladesEdit

Hotel California was the Eagles' sixth album (including Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)), and fifth of original material. It became a critical and commercial success. In a poll of rock critics and DJs in 1987, it was ranked 48 out of 100.[28] In a public poll for the 1994 edition of All Time Top 1000 Albums, it was voted number 107,[29] and then number 67 in the 2000 edition.[30] In 2001, the TV network VH1 placed Hotel California at number 38 on their 100 Greatest Albums of All Time list. Hotel California was ranked 13th in a 2005 survey held by British television's Channel 4 to determine the 100 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 37 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[31] maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.[32]

The song "Hotel California" was ranked number 49 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", in 2004[33] and again in 2011.[34]

Awards and nominationsEdit

The album was nominated for several Grammy awards in 1978 and its title track "Hotel California" won the Record of the Year. The band manager Irving Azoff however refused requests by the Grammy producer for the band to attend or perform at the ceremony unless a win was guaranteed. The band therefore did not appear at the ceremony to collect their awards. Henley later said: "The whole idea of a contest to see who is 'best' just doesn't appeal to us."[4]

Year Award Nominee Category Result
1978 Grammy Eagles for "Hotel California" Record of the Year Won
Eagles for "New Kid in Town" Best Arrangement For Voices Won
Eagles for Hotel California Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group Nominated
Eagles for Hotel California Album of the Year Nominated
Bill Szymczyk Producer of the Year Nominated

Commercial performanceEdit

The album first entered the US Billboard 200 at number four,[35] reaching number one in its fourth week in January 1977.[27][36] It topped the chart for eight weeks (non-consecutively), and it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in a week of release.[37] In its first year of release it sold nearly 6 million copies in the United States,[38] and by July 1978 it has sold 9.5 million copies worldwide (7 million in the US and 2.5 million elsewhere internationally).[39] On March 20, 2001, the album was certified 16x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, denoting shipment of 16 million in the United States,[37][40] and had sold over 17 million copies in the US by 2013.[41] Worldwide the album has sold 32 million copies.[42] On August 20, 2018, the album was certified 26× platinum by the RIAA for 26 million units consumed in the United States under the new system that tallies album and digital track sales as well as streams.[43]

The album produced two number one hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100: "New Kid in Town", on February 26, 1977, and "Hotel California" on May 7, 1977.[44]

Track listingEdit

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Hotel California"Don Henley6:30
2."New Kid in Town"
Glenn Frey5:04
3."Life in the Fast Lane"
Henley4:46
4."Wasted Time"
  • Henley
  • Frey
Henley4:55
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Wasted Time" (Reprise)
instrumental1:22
2."Victim of Love"
  • Henley
  • Frey
  • Felder
  • Souther
Henley4:11
3."Pretty Maids All in a Row"
Joe Walsh4:05
4."Try and Love Again"Randy MeisnerRandy Meisner5:10
5."The Last Resort"
  • Henley
  • Frey
Henley7:25
40th Anniversary Edition Bonus Disc (Live at the LA Forum October 20–22, 1976)
No.TitleLength
1."Take It Easy" 
2."Take It To The Limit" 
3."New Kid In Town" 
4."James Dean" 
5."Good Day In Hell" 
6."Witchy Woman" 
7."Funk #49" 
8."One Of These Nights" 
9."Hotel California" 
10."Already Gone" 

PersonnelEdit

Adapted from AllMusic.[45]

Eagles

Production

  • Bill Szymczyk – producer, mixing
  • Allan Blazek, Bruce Hensal, Ed Mashal, Bill Szymczyk – engineers
  • Jim Ed Norman – string arrangements, conductor
  • Sid Sharp – concert master
  • Don Henley, John Kosh – art direction
  • John Kosh – design
  • David Alexander – photography
  • Kosh – artwork
  • Norman Seeff – poster design
  • Kevin Gray – CD preparation
  • Ted Jensen – mastering and remastering
  • Lee Hulko – original LP mastering

ChartsEdit

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[68] 8× Platinum 560,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[69] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[70] Diamond 1,000,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[71] Gold 30,933[71]
France (SNEP)[72] Diamond 1,000,000*
Germany (BVMI)[73] Platinum 500,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[74] Platinum 20,000*
Italy (FIMI)[75]
sales since 2009
Gold 30,000*
Japan (Oricon Charts) 493,000[52]
Netherlands (NVPI)[77] Platinum 275,000[76]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[citation needed] 9× Platinum 135,000^
Norway 120,000[78]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[79] 4× Platinum 400,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[80] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[81] 6× Platinum 1,800,000^
United States (RIAA)[82] 26× Platinum 26,000,000 
Summaries
Worldwide 32,000,000[42]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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