Happy 40th: Eagles, HOTEL CALIFORNIA
40 years ago today, the Eagles released the album that arguably defined their entire career while also sending a significant percentage of the pre-internet world into fits as they tried to figure out exactly what the hell “colitas” were.
Produced by Bill Szymczyk and recorded between Miami’s Criteria Studios and Los Angeles’s Record Plant Studios, HOTEL CALIFORNIA was the first Eagles album to feature Joe Walsh, who’d replaced founding member Bernie Leadon, and it also turned out to be the last Eagles album to feature bassist Randy Meisner. The lineup change didn’t seem to bother listeners, though: the album remains the band’s most successful studio album, having sold over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone and over 32 million copies worldwide.
Not coincidentally, the first song written for HOTEL CALIFORNIA was, in fact, the title track. Don Henley teased the album’s contents in an interview with ZigZag, calling it “a concept album” and explaining, “ It's our bicentennial year, you know, the country is 200 years old, so we figured since we are the Eagles and the Eagle is our national symbol, that we were obliged to make some kind of a little bicentennial statement using California as a microcosm of the whole United States, or the whole world, if you will, and to try to wake people up and say 'We've been okay so far, for 200 years, but we're gonna have to change if we're gonna continue to be around.'”
Thankfully, we continue to be around as of this writing, and although the Eagles are defunct, their music is still played just as much as it always has been, none of it as often as HOTEL CALIFORNIA. With three hit singles to its credit (“New Kid in Town,” “Hotel California,” and “Life in the Fast Lane”), you can’t listen to any classic rock station for more than a few hours without hearing at least on them. That’s a pretty great legacy to leave.