More than 40 years ago, “Hotel California” becomes a rock music classic


The Eagles were a relatively new band when they scored their fourth No. 1 hit. That song, “Hotel California” is symbolic of the time when The Eagles had practically created their own genre. The song continues to intrigue listeners with its hypnotic and soothing guitar motifs and lyrics that remain as unyielding to “solving” as any tangible puzzle.

The Eagles and the sound of the late 1970s

In retrospect, the late 1970s was a time of contrasts in popular music. Disco had heated up just before it would disappear for good circa 1980. “Saturday Night Fever” kept America’s excitement for disco hot for a while, but otherwise music continued to evolve in other ways.

Heavy metal was almost one decade old and was still enjoying a great deal of growth and popularity. Still, it wouldn’t be until the 1980s that the genre would explode into the cultural phenomenon that people now know it to be.

Away from the seemingly New York-centric disco scene, rock music in California was full of experimentation. Where disco sounded as if it had begun to adhere to formulas, the rest of rock music continued to grow and evolve. The free-wheeling, free-thinking ethos of the west coast was found in songs by The Eagles.

“Hotel California” by The Eagles

Stylistically, The Eagles churned out songs that could sound like country rock songs, or hard rock songs. “Hotel California” stands out because it doesn’t sound like anything else. The sometimes searing and sometimes melodic guitar creates a level of tension few can ignore. The lyrics, too, are easy to sing, but are difficult to figure out.

Eagles’ songs are also distinguished by their storytelling elements. Practically every song from “Heartache Tonight,” to “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “One of These Nights,” and “Hotel California,” have strong storylines and rhythmic, hard-driving instrumentation to back them up.

“Hotel California” opens with a now-classic guitar riff that could remind imaginative listeners of the preamble associated with exposition associated with a classic tale. As the song unfolds, listeners are left with a sense of wonder. The house is shown to listeners through the lyrics. Meanwhile, the lead guitar sears and rings, the high notes seeming to build skyward. Further, the lyrics contain descriptions of the sensory details that accompany being at “Hotel California.” The overall experience is like reading a well-written book. In addition, it seems that there are always new ways to think about what “Hotel California” really is. Rhetorical analyses of the lyrics could reveal different meanings for the song.

The attributes of “hotel California” have not gone unnoticed. The song won a Grammy and the song’s solo is ranked as the all-time best by Guitarist magazine.






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