The Story Behind The Eagles’ Famous ‘Hotel California’ Album Cover

Welcome to Hotel California / Such a beautiful place (Such a beautiful place)sings Don Henley, setting the stage for the Eagles’ 1976 album Hotel California.

The Eagles’ fifth studio album rang with stories of the American experience, one that emerged after the rose-colored glasses were cast aside. Songs like “Life in the Fast Lane” and “New Kid in Town” marked Hotel California like something in a category of its own.

For simplicity, Hotel California is one of the greatest rock albums of all time, and to put it more accurately, the album has now been certified Platinum 26 times by the RIAA. And that doesn’t even begin to touch the legacy of its title track. With all that to unbox, however, the album packaging caught our eye. What’s the story behind the spooky, utopian album cover?

Read below the story behind the famous Eagles Hotel California album cover.

The story behind the album cover.

The album cover of Hotel California is a photo of the Beverly Hills Hotel just before sunset. Photographer David Alexander photographed the scene and famed art director John Kosh designed the shoot. (Kosh had already designed The Beatles’ Abbey Road and The Who’s Who’s next album covers at that time.) Together, Alexander and Kosh captured the legendary California experience to pair with the Eagles’ new nine-track record.

“For the album cover, Don wanted me to find and represent THE Hotel California – a hotel that would best exemplify a classic ‘California hotel’, and to portray it with a slightly sinister edge,” Kosh said in a 2007 interview. “Photographer David Alexander and I looked for suitable locations. We photographed three hotels (some with a rather “shabby and genteel” character) that fit the brief and large prints were made for approval. By now I was mainly looking after Henley – the rest of the group was arriving as we went along and murmuring their approvals – and he preferred more lavish images. The photo of the Beverly Hills Hotel against the golden sunset was considered the favorite.

Additionally, to physically get the shot, Alexander and Kosh perched above Sunset Boulevard in a 60-foot pod. Kosh recalled that they were “blindly shooting into the sun” using high-speed Ektachrome film to achieve the grainy look that appears on the album cover. The results were, as you know, breathtaking. Kosh then collaborated with airbrush artist Bob Hickson to create the Hotel California neon sign in the lower right corner.

“Interestingly, I was embroiled in the same heated debate with Asylum Records over the use of the band’s name on the cover that I had years earlier with EMI in London,” Kosh continued. “I thought it unnecessary to use the words ‘The Beatles’ on Abbey Road given that the album was highly anticipated and the Beatles were the biggest band in the world at the time. Such was the case with Hotel California. In 1976, the Eagles were the biggest band in the world and ultimately only the title “Hotel California” appeared on the original album cover.

Legal issues.

After the album was officially released in 1976, The Beverly Hills Hotel learned that it was their hotel on the Eagles album cover. Hotel representatives were not happy with this unsolicited publicity. At least at the start. “Subsequently, as sales of ‘Hotel California’ soared, attorneys for the Beverly Hills Hotel threatened me with ‘cease and desist’ action – until my attorney kindly point out to me that requests for hotel reservations have tripled since the release of the album,” Kosh concluded.

Welcome to Hotel California
Such a beautiful place (such a beautiful place)

“You can leave at any time”
“But you can never leave!”

Nicholas E. Crittendon