Don Felder’s defense against ‘Hotel California’ charges

When the Eagles released their fifth studio album “Hotel California” in 1976, the self-titled lead track was a major commercial success. The album and the song at the top of national and international charts. As the single received critical acclaim, the song is still considered one of the best rock tracks ever produced. With the major recognition the song received, accusations regarding the origins of “Hotel California” followed.

Allegations of stolen lyrics were and still are relatively common in the music industry. However, when the accusation was made by another adult member of the group, Jethro Tull leader Ian Andersonaudiences began to hear the resemblance between ‘Hotel California’ and one of the British band’s songs.

As the Eagles opened for Jethro Tull in 1972 as the two bands toured together. At the time, Jethro Tull were a critically acclaimed band as the Eagles were just beginning to climb the ladder of fame. During the performances, Jethro Tull performed their hits and their 1969 song ‘We used to know‘ was also included in the group’s set-list. The song was later realized to be similar to 1976’s “Hotel California”.

Had “The Caliornia Hotel” been plagiarized?

Ian Anderson had previously discussed this issue and said it was possible the Eagles could be unconsciously affected by ‘We used to know.’ For Anderson, the case may have been that the band had heard the song during Jethro Tull’s shows and since the Eagles liked the melody, they mirrored the sound onto their music without being fully aware of it.

Anderson said:

“The Eagles probably heard us play the song because it would have been in the sets at the time, and maybe it was just something they sort of taken back unconsciously and introduced this chord sequence in their famous song ‘Hotel California’ some time later.

“Hotel California composer Don Felder, however, denied the accusations. Felder is known to have joined the Eagles in 1974, two years after the tour in question. In addition to pointing out that he did not travel with Jethro Tull while on tour, Don Felder also recalled the day he composed the hit song at a beach house in Malibu.

Felder explained:

“I remember sitting in the living room on a spectacular day in July with the doors wide open. I had a bathing suit on and I was sitting on this couch, soaking wet, thinking the world is a wonderful place. I had this acoustic 12-string and started playing with it, and those “Hotel California” chords just oozed out.

Despite Felder’s statement, Ian Anderson said these types of resemblances are natural between artists. The musician noted that most of the chords that rockers play are often overused, and for this reason, melodies may sound similar to each other.

Anderson exclaimed:

“It’s not plagiarism. It’s just the same chord sequence. It’s in a different time signature, a different key, a different context… It’s hard to find a chord sequence that hasn’t been used and hasn’t been central to a lot of pieces of music. Harmonic progression – it’s almost a mathematical certainty that you’ll come across the same thing sooner or later if you strum a few chords on a guitar.

You can listen to “We Used To Know” and “Hotel California” below.

Nicholas E. Crittendon