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Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae, edited by whoiscloud, Teampeeta254, Matilda Is Rad

Hotel California song meanings
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  • +19
    General CommentI have a very interesting little story for all of you in regards to this song and it's meaning. About 15 years ago, I was taking an English class in University, and the and the professor of the class had an assignment for us. He handed out a sheet of paper face down to everyone. When we turned it over, we were told to write what we thought the song was about. He added, however, that the song was NOT about a cult so don't even write that. So, basically almost every member of the class then proceeded along the next route....the drugs/addiction metaphors. When we were done, he proceeded to tell us what the song, and the corresponding album were ACTUALLY about. It seems our prof had, at one time, lived in the California area and was very good friends with a certain drummer named Don Henley. Don explained the story behind the song to him, and said he was amused at the wide varieties of interpretations the song had developed over time. According to the source, The "Hotel California" is actually, L.A. itself. The song and album take you on a trip though the music industry in L.A. in the late sixties early seventies, when agents and studios controlled artists like puppets. Back in the late sixties, 1969 to be exact, there was a major onslaught of artists being signed left, right and center, and artisit at the time were often known to basically "sell their soul" to a record company executive in order to get a recording contract. Many times these artists were given little if anything for their music, and thus ended up basically a victom to their love of music. Just imagine the scene at the time, it's late 60's, you are on your way to L.A. to strike it big with dreams of glamour and fame...and you basically are prepared to sell your soul of you have to to attain it. I must admit, when I first heard this explaination, I was a little skeptical...but trust me....listen to the WHOLE album again, start to finish and keep this definition in mind when you do it. Every song ties together in one big story, finishing off with the Last Resort which gives you a clear summery of the whole album and idea. I don't deny that drugs and addiction have a lot to do with the lifestyle and results of the quest for fame. All I ask is to keep an open mind and think of "The Hotel California" as L.A., and you may be surprised.
    daffybon April 13, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think the song is metaphorical, but something that can be made sense of. The Hotel California represents the California high-life...the promise of the fame and fortune of the 70s that brought people to the state...from an outsiders point of view, it is attractive and draws people (like a drug)...however, be careful..."you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave"...once there, it is hard to escape. Henley didn't literally mean California...he meant the trappings of "ego" ....the mind state of being absorbed by pleasures and the "self"...as they can never bring true happiness.
    mikey14on July 03, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis song certainly has drug influences and references, but i`m not so sure that it is "about" drug dependance. i see it more as being about the whole california culture of the 70's. extravagance, drugs, party till you die type thing. Henley, Walsh and the other band members were seeking something more simple, but the cultural demands at the time wouldn`t let them. thus the 'Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes-Benz' lines.
    ramtharon February 22, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOf course! How stupid of me! A book written by some anonymous yahoo is MUCH more accurate that the drummer from the ACTUAL BAND! What was I thinking?
    daffybon April 18, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti aslo agree that lyrics (especially from this song) are subject to many different interpetations. That's the beauty of lyrics and poetry in general. However, I heard the "meaning" of this song described once and i thought it was a great interpretation, so im resharing it. I heard it described as "a cynical view of paradise." When you think about it that way it could mean drugs, the entertainment business, or simply a supposed paradise because they all fit people's ideas of paradise. Its a vague interpretation but it allows you to decide what the song means to you, and that (in my opinion) is one of the reasons we listen to music in the first place.
    chorts29on April 24, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI know what this song is about, not a cult it's about drugs.

    "Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way " That's not a candle she's lighting up.

    "Some dance to remember, some dance to forget" Some people do them do remember good memories, some people do them to forget bad memories.

    'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device" That is basically what drug users are

    "The stab it with their steely knives But they just can't kill the beast" The beast being the addiction/

    "You can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!" You can always say you aren't addicted or that you can quit anytime you want, but you'll always end up going back to them.

    Pretty basic clear maening, there are other metaphors in there to decipher but that's tha basics.
    Dethon February 03, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI must agree as well with phishman about the whole "subject to individual interpretation" thing. What ultimately matters is what it means to you SurferM or you daffyb or me Felicity. I mean, why else would they use metaphor and then NOT write a book about it themselves? Why leave the book writing and explanations up to other people & "friends"? Maybe they don't even care; it was a song that sold millions of records after all. And the mystery (woooo!!) was part of that success. Kinda like Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks with her black lacy shawls and references to witchcraft. When I was a young and impressionable teenager, I just was so woo-ed by that music. BTW, if you want to read a book written by the artist himself, read Mick Fleetwood's book. Anyway, for me personally, I have always liked how the Eagles painted pictures of that whole LA/California scene with lyrics and music; that's how I see their work anyway. When you go there and hang out, it seems to resonate, and it very interesting to me how they have captured that.
    FELICITYon April 24, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti agree with deth about the meaning i think is about drugs..... this song is amazing .. im only 15 and i love it its very very cool..... i thinks its kinda erie too... the lyrics are great xxxxxxx
    Mixiblobon May 04, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have always been told that this song is about Camarillo State hospital (a mental hospital) where a lot of famous hollywood types had stayed at. camarillo is between LA and Santa Barbara. It is closed now, but that place was freaking spooky. I know for a fact that the picture on the front of the album is camarillo. Someone mentioned it had to do with james taylors girlfriend, and she had stayed at this mental hospital before she killed herself (fire and rain is written about her) has anyone else ever heard about this idea? The song has always freaked me out because i had a cousin that killed herself back in like the 70's in that place, makes it a lot spookier. Oh and also I just have to say this song has always reminded me of the movie "The Shining" (before anyone gets angry, that does not mean i think the song is about the shining.) ok thats all, just wondering if anyone else has heard about the mental hospital topic.
    jeannieon July 06, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI dont think this song is about drugs.. it's a metaphor of something on a bigger scale like life itself.. drugs limit it a lot. well it could be about drugs.. part of it.
    But its about getting through life in general.. as for the people that said its about the pressures of the music industry and the whole california culture are on the right track.. their explanations even support my little theory.

    oh and please.. i dont have to be reminded every time by some wise ass that songs are like art and can be interpreted however we want. thank you.. i dont really need your permission to interpret a song.. we were just a little curious on knowing what the songwriter wrote it about.. do we have to say this everytime? and the reason why they use metaphors is to describe things better and give you a lively, vivid picture.

    anyway.. the lyrics are very well written. They are very haunting.. they sound like a horror movie. And specially with the song's ending. It ends on the guy being stuck in that place for good.. it's really left unclear.. Makes me think of "in the mouth of madness" everytime.. it's a horror movie with a similar idea.
    Also reminds me of "the shining" someone already said that i think.
    fadelon April 16, 2003   Link

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