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The Last Resort song meanings
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  • +8
    General Comment

    To me, this song is about development. Development of land for financial gain, evangelization of people, and the ignorance we show towards both.

    "Down in the crowded bars, out for a good time, Can't wait to tell you all, what it's like up there And they called it paradise I don't know why Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high"

    To me, this is about the desecration of the environment, and how we humans choose to ignore it. The "laying low" of the mountains is probably about mining or logging, and how the people in the towns just drink to celebrate the end of the weeks work. They drown their sorrows in drink and drugs, and ignore the damage they are doing.

    "Some rich men came and raped the land, Nobody caught 'em Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, people bought 'em And they called it paradise The place to be They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea"

    Is pretty self-explanatory. Development, the destroying of the land and the building of homes, offices and shops. Calling it paradise, because it's a nice home, ad watching the hazy sun, possibly hazy because of pollution. This seems to be a very sarcastic lyric.

    "You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina just like the missionaries did, so many years ago They even brought a neon sign: "Jesus is coming" Brought the white man's burden down Brought the white man's reign"

    This takes a place like Lahaina, which really is paradise (I went there a few years back, so I'm not just shooting my mouth off here), and it's people with their culture, and evangelising them, to make them like everyone else. It's the development of a culture, which destroyed what was natural and beautiful about them.

    "Who will provide the grand design? What is yours and what is mine? 'Cause there is no more new frontier We have got to make it here"

    This sounds very angry. It talks about how there's no "new frontier" for us to explore, and because of that we can't move on from the mess we've made...we have to make it here.

    "And you can see them there, On Sunday morning They stand up and sing about what it's like up there They call it paradise I don't know why You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye"

    This is about Church-goers. Possibly the miners and loggers, the rich men who raped the land, and the people who bought from them, and the missionaries. At Church on Sunday morning, singing about getting into heaven, which is sometimes called Paradise, and how wonderful it will be up there, after they've died. However, as the song has shown, all the places we've called paradise we've managed to destroy, in favour of a man-made paradise.

    "They call it paradise I don't know why You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye"

    In a religious context, this states that calling the afterlife paradise is a misnomer. All the places we've called paradise we have destroyed, and therefore, hoping to get into heaven is unjustified, as we don't deserve it. After having called some place paradise, and kissed it goodbye, the same should then happen with our hopes of getting into heaven.

    This is one of the only Eagles songs I like (the other being Try And Love Again), and I just LOVE it. It's also my Dad's favourite song, and it's so powerful and emotional, it makes me want to cry every time I hear it. It's an absolute masterpiece; musically, lyrically and vocally. I am yet to hear a better song by this band.

    Arianrhodon September 29, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    If you've seen the Hell Freezes Over DVD Don Henley introduces The Last Resort by saying, "Everyone's heard of how the West was won, well this is about how the West was lost." Take from that what you will.

    shirvson January 22, 2006   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaning

    Here is a modest proposal of what I understand “The Last Resort,” (double meaning, of course), to mean.It is about what we white Americans have done in our pursuit of the American Dream.

    Although we tend to think of the Dream as "success," that is only part of it. According to Eric Sevareid in his essay “The American Dream,” the dream is “rebirth,” “starting over,” leaving the past and the sins/mistakes of the past behind. It has its basis in Christian mythology. Called by some “The Myth of Edenic Possibilities,” the idea is that to Europeans, the New World was the new Eden, a place where people could leave their pasts behind. With the slate wiped clean, in this New Eden, America, anyone could start over–“as clean as God’s fingers” (as one of the characters in The Crucible puts it). Here “Adam” can return to Eden/Paradise, and, this time, stay away from the darned apple tree. American writers such as Cooper, Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Penn Warren, and, yes, Henley, etc.) have wrestled with this naïve idea for two hundred years. They tend to reject it because–new Eden or not–they realize it is the still the same old Adam who still carries within him whatever it is/was (original sin, human nature) that caused him to lose paradise in the first place. Our writers, and I am including Henley here, seem to believe that the first thing Adam (and Eve, of course) would do, if given a second chance at Eden, would be to build an applesauce factory–(powered, perhaps, with dirty coal!).

    Now to the song itself: It starts on the east coast. The reference to Rhode Island, and particularly to the “Old World Shadows,” is very interesting. “Old World shadows” have no place in the New World. The image contradicts the whole idea of America as a place to start anew. The fact that there are "Old World shadows" in Providence (which there are, by the way, or at least were the last time I was there–narrow cobbled streets, for example) reinforces the idea that the American Dream is an illusion. We carry our pasts with us. (Two good literary images of this idea are the character who carries her parents' bones in a bag on her back (Garcia Marques: 100 Years of Solitude) and the use of the name “Burden” (one character is even named Calvin Burden (the "burden" of our Puritan past) in the works of Faulkner and Penn Warren – but I digress. It is also interesting that the speaker finds it necessary to point out that “she” comes from the Providence “in Rhode Island”–not the other “Providence” (the will of God or God Himself)–a second double meaning in the song. “Her” father came, like so many others, from Europe (apparently to Providence), but “she” is not satisfied to remain there. “Her hopes and dreams” can apparently not be fulfilled in Providence, so she is heading west (the mythic direction of the American Dream) to a “place people [are] smiling.” These people rhapsodize about “the Red Man’s ways” and “how they [love] the land.” They envision a new virtual “Paradise,” and crowd in. (“She” disappears in the crowd, by the way, and we hear no more about her.) In their pursuit of “Paradise,” however, these seekers destroy it – they lay “the mountains low” while their towns grow high. Instead of staying and cleaning up their mess, however, they continue to move west, seeking yet another paradise. (One is reminded here of the Mad Tea Party!) “They” cross the desert and end in California – where they settle, “hungry for power / To light their neon way [and] / Give them things to do.” The “power” comes, of course, from electricity with all the problems associated with it (pollution, brownouts, etc.) “Power,” like “The Last Resort” and “Providence,” has a double meaning.)

    The speaker becomes more harsh and blunt here: “rich men...rape” the virgin land and apparently get away with it, putting up “a bunch of ugly boxes,” and the speaker is stunned and horrified to note that “Jesus! People [have actually] bought ‘em!” (Not "Jesus-People, by the way!)

    The next image is of the sunset – an archetype of death or an ending – “hazy” with the pollution that the hunger for “power” has produced. This is the end of the road – the end of the westward journey – there is no clean, unspoiled place left to go. “They” have reached the far edge of the continent where they stand watching the sun go down.

    Well, that’s not quite true. “You can leave it all behind [and] / Sail to Lahaina,” but Lahaina is not pristine anymore either. The “missionaries” took care of that “many years ago” when they “brought the White Man’s burden” and “the White Man’s reign” down on the native Hawaiians. (One interesting aspect of Lahaina that I noticed there was how much the buildings resemble those of New England whaling towns whence came those missionaries.) (At one time at least, there actually was a sign in Lahaina that read “Jesus is coming.” I don't know if it is still there.)

    Now the speaker makes his point: “There is no more New Frontier.” We cannot continue to trash one “paradise,” then move west in pursuit of another. At the Mad Tea Party, eventually all the teacups are dirtied. “We have got to make it here.” In other words, instead of leaving “it all behind,” we need to stay put and clean up our mess! (As Phil Collins says in “Age of Confusion,” “This is the world we live in / And these are the hands we’re given.”)

    The speaker’s indictment of white America comes next. The idea of Manifest Destiny was the peculiar 19th century notion that it was God’s will (the other “Providence”) that white Americans possess the continent “from sea to shining sea.” Naturally, of course, anyone who tried to stand in our way was going against the will of God and therefore deserved to be annihilated. Hence: We satisfy our endless needs [for beautiful, unspoiled land, for wealth, for a new Paradise, for a second chance] And justify our bloody deeds [Duh....does this need explication?] In the name of [Manifest] destiny And in the name of God. Then the speaker echoes an earlier section with a twist: You can see them [good “Christians”] there [in church] on Sunday morning Stand up and sing about what it’s like up there. [Not the Rockies this time] They call it Paradise, I don’t know why Call someplace paradise; kiss it goodbye. Obviously, the speaker is not suggesting that if we go to heaven, we will trash the place. He means, I think, that the earth has been given to us in trust; we are its stewards, and like those in the Bible story of the Talents, if we do not fulfill our obligation and take care of what we have been given, when the Master returns and demands of us what we have done with it, we will not hear, “Well done, though good and faithful servant.” Instead, like the third steward in the parable, because we have buried our “one talent” (under a mountain of trash and “ugly boxes”), it will be taken from us, and we will be cast out. We can “kiss” Paradise “goodbye” because we won’t be going there. For what it’s worth.

    Cleverwitchon May 15, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    no you are ALL wrong its about the way the white man raped the indians.. raped their women.. stole their land.. killed them.. it's all in that song.. they did all that and called themselves chiristians and said they were worshipers of god

    p!nkluvron September 11, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Floyd84 is right. Its a great song, probably my favorite lyrics. Basically hes saying that some people neglect the earth because they think that there is a heaven. They think that there is someplace better. But he believes that the earth is "the last resort". "There are no more new frontiers, we have got to make it here". IE This is heaven.Take care of it. My thoughts exactly.

    ruarchitecton June 18, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Put aside the meaning for a moment, my favorite thing about this song is how it builds up to the climax. Two times they start to the pinacle and then seemingly take a rest. It's almost as if we're supposed to use this as an intermission to consider our sins. The first time, to consider what we did to the mountains. ("Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high "). The second time to consider the Pacific Coast (the "hazy sun, sinking in the sea.")

    Finally, they start the trip a third time. This time with the suggestion of further westward expansion to Hawaii. This time, however, the Eagles don't take the rest. No rest is appropriate because there is nowhere else to go from here. The third time is a constant crescendo. The music intensifies as more instruments are added. The lyrics intensify and certainly Henley's singing intensifies. This time, the Eagles finish the story with the moral (the last two lyrics).

    Put down the lyrics and just close your eyes. The message will wash over you in the music and instrumentation as well as the lyrics.

    SpringsteenisGodon June 28, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    he isn't talking about the history of rhode island. a lot of this song is figuratively speaking, which adds to how amazing it is. the first line "she came from providence", it implies that she's coming from the grace of god, and when he says "one in rhode island", he could mean quite a few things. the way i believe is that since he says it almost as a side note, he's talking about how people would use certain words to get where they wanted. i can't explain what i mean as well as it is in my head. =)

    i don't believe he's describing an actual place, but more describing how we destroy our own happiness, as in the last line "you call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye." once a place has attention brought to it ["can't wait to tell you all what it's like up there"], it slowly brings upon its own demise. up until this point, it's such a peaceful song, but then it almost seems sinister: then the chilly winds blew down across the desert through the canyons of the coast, to the malibu where the pretty people play, hungry for power to light their neon way and give them things to do"

    the next part talks about the same idea, how people started out with a good idea ["they even brought a neon sign that said 'jesus is coming'"], but it "brought the white man's burden down, brought the white man's reign". power is corruption. up until that moment, everything was good, but once someone took control, they ruined it.

    the next few stanzas is him expressing his anger, and the power in this is amazing. i love his voice. =)

    the last lines sum up the song... about how one day, this "paradise" that was once, is now simply a story they tell, nothing more. once you "call some place paradise... kiss it goodbye"...

    sapphireskieson August 22, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song isn't anti-Christian at all. If it did they would no longer play it because 2 both Don Henley and Joe Walsh are born again Christians.

    It's about the over commercialization of everything, how no one can appreciate the natural beauty of something, and what is once beautiful is then raped for profit. It's a commentary on basically the capitalist way of life, not condemning it but simply pointing out what happens, and human nature.

    Revolver45on March 07, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song is awesome and never gets old. This song is so easy to relate to because its meaning is here. For example people mining on the land, putting up more buildings to live in this paradise world and dream of this so called "heaven". And after the destroy one place, they move on to another. And the "jesus people" belive that if you don't do what they say, that were all useless, but if the world wasn't overrun by these people, then the earth's land wouldn't be "raped" as they mention in the song, definitely one of my favorite Eagles songs.

    floyd84on April 11, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song is so very clearly an attack on the Church. It could not be any clearer in the lyrics. (Even if you ignore the tone when it refers to missionaries and the Sunday-morning singers, and the clever double meaning of the exclamation "and Jesus, people bought 'em" – "Jesus' people"? Even "Jesus-people"?) Very interesting, therefore, to hear that the Eagles are now born-again Christians yet still performing the song! Of course, the band were always spiritual and the point is that the faith itself is not their target. It's about the Native Americans' respectful ways with regards to what was a paradise on earth being turned over, and the "white man's" excesses/crimes and greed being outrageously justified in the name of God – they "brought the... burden down" with "bloody deeds", "raped the land" etc. etc. until the paradise was no more. The essential message of Christianty was never the target, but the self-righteous colonial nature of Bible-bashing settlers; the song is a warning to appreciate what we have on earth, whether you believe a God gave it to us or not.

    TheKeeperon June 14, 2006   Link

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