Hotel California

I too have always assumed the song was about the southern California lifestyle of the '70’s and the transition from the “Love/marijuana vibe” to the “MeMeMe/cocaine vibe”

One of the infamous lines in the song that has led to much of the “Satanism” claims is, “In the Master’s chamber, They gather for the feast, They stab it with their steely knives, But they just can kill the beast”. I’ve always attributed this line to people gathering around a mirror and snorting cocaine, with the “steely knive” being the razor blade you use to chop it up.

According to Glenn Frey’s liner notes for The Very Best of Eagles, the use of the word “steely” in the lyric (referring to knives) was a playful nod to band Steely Dan, who had included the lyric “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening” in their song “Everything You Did.”

…could still be a reference to cocaine of course.

I imagine that’s the kind of thing that works on two levels. Level one is the stated theme of the lyrics, the metaphor for the LA drug culture. In that metaphor, I can see how a knife stabbing at the beast could be the razor blade chopping at the cocaine. Level two is The Eagles working in a reference to Steely Dan, and inserting the word “steely”.

It’s also just great imagery – sitting down to a feast and the main course won’t stay dead.

I think Hotel California, the album as well as the song, is about drugs only insofar as drugs were a part of the 70s Calif mentaility of doing “everything, all the time” without consideration that there are consequences. Lines like “Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she’s got the Mercedes Bends” reveal the negative effects of conspicuous consumption but aren’t about drugs per se. “New Kid in Town” is very superficial/Hollywood but not really about drugs. “Life in the Fast Lane” is about sex and drugs and beautiful people who don’t recognize limits.

I’ve not heard it said, but I can’t be the first person to note that the last song on the album, “The Last Resort,” works as a sly reference to the title track. Get it? The Hotel California is the last Resort. TLR is, of course, about the settlement and eventual destruction of the last paradise . “We have got to make it here” because you can’t go any farther west unless you “sail to Lahaina” (Maui). In the 70s, the beautiful people were consuming paradise with every steely tool at their disposal, but it wasn’t dead yet.

I like the razor blade theory, though.