Can You Visit the Eagles Hotel California?
Hotel California by the Eagles is one of the most iconic rock songs in history. Although the musical foundation is steeped in American nostalgia, it would be challenging to find anyone from any country on earth who has never heard the song.
“I played Hotel California and no matter what language people spoke, or what country they were from, everyone sang the entire song. That’s when I saw that the song truly had a global impact”, says Don Felder, former guitarist for the Eagles.
That said, how many of us understand what the song is about? What is Colitas, what does Tiffany-twisted mean, and most importantly, can you visit the Eagles’ Hotel California in real life?
Let’s find out!
About the Eagles and the Song, Hotel California
The Eagles were four guys from middle America who made their pilgrimage to Los Angeles in the late 60s/early 70s to solidify a music career. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon all started in different cities, playing with various bands.
Although they circulated in the same country-rock California scene, one fateful gig at Disneyland brought them together and sparked the formation of the Eagles.
Yes, Disneyland. Henley, Frey, Meisner, and Leadon had been recruited to play as part of Linda Ronstadt’s backup band. July 12, 1971, at Disneyland, was their first gig playing together supporting Ronstadt. After the gig, Henley and Frey both said the energy was too good to pass up. They said thanks and goodbye to Ronstadt and took flight as the Eagles.
Hotel California was the fifth and most successful album of the Eagles. This release marked the pinnacle of their career and took almost all of 1976 to record.
Although the band has had its share of lineup changes and broke up in 1980, they reunited in 1994 and have continued to tour.
Fun List: Here are the 11 best Eagles songs.
Plenty of Room at the Hotel California, But is It Real?
The Hotel California is not real, in the brick-and-mortar sense.
Articles and theories on the origin story of Hotel California are running amok. So much so that the band members seem rather annoyed and haunted by the whole thing.
First, there’s the lawsuit:
Hotel California Baja, located in Todos Santos, Mexico, is the closest location you’ll find in a Google search for “Hotel California,” as stated in an article from upvenue.com. But according to the Eagles themselves, the Hotel California Baja is not the inspiration for the song. The two have nothing to do with each other.
The Eagles sued the hotel owners in 2017, claiming they actively encouraged guests to think the hotel and the Eagles song were linked. According to Reuters, the lawsuit was settled in 2018, when Hotel California Baja LLC agreed to drop applications to use their trademark in the United States.
Second, the BBC One Glenn Frey Interview:
“Everybody wants to know what that song was about, and we don’t know,” says Frey. He explains that he and Don Henley wanted to create a cinematic song, with a montage of images and ideas, simply to try something different.
Pro Tip: Before you go the the Hotel California Baja uncover Is It Safe to RV in Baja California?
What Hotel is on the Hotel California Album Cover?
So, here we are. The Hotel California is not a real place. The song doesn’t even make sense to the people who wrote it. They were too busy smoking colitas (don’t worry, we’ll get to that shortly.) But let’s talk about what we do know.
The Hotel on the front cover of the Hotel California album is The Beverly Hills Hotel. Photographer David Alexander took the photo atop a cherry picker situated perfectly above Sunset Boulevard. This viewpoint allowed him to capture the uncommon, moody portrait of the well-known establishment.
The photo on the back cover is from the Lido Hotel in Hollywood.
Perhaps the Eagles Hotel California is not one place, but many. Or maybe it’s the rock ‘n roll lifestyle on the road, sleeping in different places every night, meeting different people everywhere you go, and yet always anchored deep down beneath the city of Los Angeles. “Such a lovely place, such a lovely face…”
Pro Tip: Can’t find a hotel to stay in in California? Why not try these Best Beach Camping Spots in California.
What Does “Warm Smell of Colitas” Mean?
The word “Colitas” in Spanish means “little tails.” If you search #colitas on Instagram, you’ll see loads of photos of hair scrunchies and ties used to decorate long locks into ‘little tails.’
But clearly, scrunchies do not rise in the air, nor do they smell. Or at least we hope they don’t. In the case of the Eagles’ Hotel California, “Colitas” refers to the little end tails of the marijuana leaf. The protagonist is probably smoking a joint in his car.
The man has been driving for quite some time. He’s tired and sees a shimmering light ahead. So he decides to stop. At barely two minutes into the song, you may be wondering if the shimmering light is real or merely a mirage. Perhaps all of this results from a nap on the side of the road, inside some drug-fueled hallucination.
Either way, we’ve been invited to come along. And we love it.
About midway through the trip, we’re given hints about another strong theme of the song – a journey from innocence to excess. The American Dream is the American Nightmare at the same time.
Our host at the Hotel California is at once both beautiful and strange. She is “Tiffany-twisted” and “she got the Mercedes bends.” Tiffany-twisted is urban slang for being preoccupied with money and status. The spelling of “bends” here, instead of “Benz,” alludes to our host being ill, having the bends, from loving excess too much.
By the time we arrive at the end of the lyrics, “You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave”, we’ve been given plenty of metaphors to be haunted by.
Are the Eagles Still Touring?
As mentioned above, the Eagles are still touring. In fact, the band is celebrating its 50th year. They’re currently finishing up the 2021 US tour. Then, in the summer of 2022, they’ll be traveling throughout the UK and northern Europe for the 50th-year performances.
Pro Tip: It looks like all concerts in the US are sold out. If you want to see the Eagles live in 2022, we suggest buying tickets now.
Some Dance to Remember, Some Dance to Forget
Alas, we’ve come full circle back to the original question at hand: Can you visit the Eagles Hotel California? Our answer is both no and yes.
No – there’s no brick-and-mortar building that’s the Hotel California. Nor has one particular spot inspired the song.
Yes – the very structure of the six and one half minute song leaves you plenty of space to take a trip to the Hotel California, all on your own. Within your imagination.
Have you ever noticed that the last two minutes of the song are instrumental?
After the vast landscape we’ve been given by Don Henely’s words, and Glen Frey’s cinematic concepts, the most natural effect is to enter a daydream, or a Hotel California, entirely
of your own.
Let the extended ending of the song, the back and forth of electric guitars between Joe Walsh and Don Felder, take you there.
Would you be surrounded by beautiful people drinking pink champagne, mesmerized by mirrored ceilings? Or would you suddenly feel trapped, falling backward in time, into an anguish not unlike the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s horror novel, The Shining? A beautiful hotel with decades of history, which somehow swallows you whole.
“It’s just a movie,” says Glenn Frey. “It doesn’t have to make sense. The guy is in the car, the guy has a cigarette, he drives up, there’s a place with lights, he walks in, the strange guy opens the door, it’s like The Shining, you know, so you just sort of let everybody else’s imagination go to work.”
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