The twisted legacy of Hotel California
Not to be outdone, others have speculated that the song is about a drug trip (the initials The Hotel California may be acronyms in THC, a main component of cannabis) or a cannibalistic orgy ( “in the master’s chambers / They gathered for the feast”). The titular hotel was also identified (incorrectly) as Camarillo State Psychiatric Hospital, which was closed in 1997.
Don Henley, a former student of English and American literature and the leading lyricist, dismissed these notions with typical bluntness. “Some of the wildest renditions have been amazing. It was really about the excesses of American culture and some girls we knew. Henley’s breakup with girlfriend Loree Rodkin may have inspired the phrases researcher gold “Her mind’s twisted by Tiffany / She’s got the Mercedes bends.”
The track was originally conceived by guitarist Don Felder, who recorded an instrumental demo while living in a rented house in Malibu Beach. Its strange Latin rhythm caught the attention of drummer-singer Henley, who gave it the working title Mexican Reggae. Felder (who later fell out badly with his bandmates and was fired from the reunited roster in 2001) noted that no one in the Eagles was from California. He recalled that the group had entered the state one night. “On the horizon you could see the lights of LA from about 100 miles away as you approach them for the first time. You have all these images in your mind: palm trees, movie stars, Hollywood Boulevard. Henley said that it would be a good idea to write this song about the concept of California, the excess of Hollywood and all that.
Henley’s main songwriting partner, Frey, helped develop the theme of a weary driver stopping for a rest area and entering “a strange world of bizarre characters” where he becomes “frightened by the claustrophobic feeling of being caught in a web from which he can never escape. . Frey compared it to an episode of the science fiction television series The Twilight Zone.