Soft Rock Music
The song was written by group members Don Felder, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley. People often ask what the song is truly about. The writers of the song have explained at various times that it’s a metaphor for the excesses of American culture and materialism, particularly as exemplified in Los Angeles. Henley said, “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest. Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.” They felt there was an uneasy balance between art and commerce, and it can be seen as a mythical journey from innocence to experience. The image of the hotel is interesting in that it accepts travelers and gives the feeling of people on the move, but as the lyrics say: “You can check out any time you like, / But you can never leave!” Oh my.
The song was released in December 1976 on their album titled Hotel California. The single came out in February, 1977, backed with “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” In 1977, “Hotel California” had phenomenal international charting success. It went to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and in Canada. It was #2 in France and Switzerland, #5 in Norway and New Zealand, #6 in Germany and The Netherlands, and #8 in the U.K. It earned platinum certification (digital download) in the U.S. and Italy, gold in the U.S. for the physical record, and silver certification in the U.K.
On the track were Don Felder (12- and 6-string electric guitars, backing vocals), Don Henley (lead and backing vocals, drums, percussion,) Glen Frey (12-string acoustic guitar, backing vocals), Joe Walsh (electric guitar, backing vocals), and Randy Meisner (bass, backing vocals). The lineup of the group has changed over the years, of course, and they have continued to record, perform, and tour.
Here’s a bit of trivia about the album cover. The photo of the hotel on the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is often a stopping place for Hollywood stars. David Alexander and John Kush took the picture. They sat in a cherry-picker 60 feet about Sunset Boulevard and the rush-hour traffic to find the right shot at sunset.