It’s a great song, that Hotel California, and I don’t need to hear it ever again… simply because it’s one of those 70s classics heard at least a thousand times in one’s lifetime. C’mon, let’s keep some headspace for other songs.
HOWEVER… I just read the most compelling explanation of Hotel California’s lyrical content ever:
The song is credited as being written by Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. It was released in 1976 by the Eagles.
There are many fantastic ideas about the meaning of the lyrics of the song. These theories usually pick one or two isolated items from the entire song. Almost all songs tell a story, and as such all of the lyrics should contribute to the whole. Hotel California is no different.
The meaning of the lyrics are that the song is a description of the journey from ‘Need’ to ‘Love and Marriage’ to ‘Divorce’ and ultimately to the impossibility of regaining the life and happiness of the pre-divorce state.
Initially the traveler is feeling the need of a relationship “My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night.” The traveler meets his love and gets married “There she stood in the doorway. I heard the mission bell.” A marriage commitment opens up the possibility of happiness but, also, the traveler is aware that he is vulnerable to the possibility of intense unhappiness. “And I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell.”
Unfortunately the marriage dissolves and his former love becomes obsessed with money “Her mind is Tiffany-twisted” where “Tiffany” refers to the very expensive New York Store, Tiffany & Co.. With the divorce there is the division of property- “she got the Mercedes Benz.” After the breakup when he sees her with any guys she reassures him that the “pretty, pretty boys” are just “friends.” In this new world of being single the other singles he meets do their “dance in the courtyard.” of life. They generally fall into one or the other of two groups. There are those who can’t stop talking about their Ex. “Some dance to remember” and there are those who don’t want to say anything at all about their past marriage “some dance to forget.”
Now in this world of being divorced he longs to return the pre-divorced state of happiness “So I called up the captain, please bring me my wine” but he finds that his happiness (wine) is now irrevocably in the past “we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine.”
Deep into the post-divorce single’s scene with “mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice” he is reminded that “we are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” And, yet, he and others want this divorce nightmare to be over, so- “they stab it with their steely knives, but” they can’t become pre-divorced, “they just can’t kill the beast.” Now frustrated he panics and is “running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.” But he is brought up short when the night man informs him that “You can checkout any time you like,” (commit suicide) “but you can never leave” (become pre-divorced).
There are two choruses in the song and each mention the “Hotel California.” This reference is to the environment in California around the time the song was written. California was experiencing the highest divorce rate in the nation. Each chorus has lines that remember his past marriage “such a lovely place” and his past lover “such a lovely face.” The first chorus indicates that there can always be more divorces “Plenty of room at the Hotel California, any time of year, you can find it here.” The second chorus points out that, as a part of divorce, you will always “bring your alibis…”
Who knew? Pops always told me it was about being in trapped in a mental institution. This makes way more sense… sorry dad, you’ve been trumped.