So is Hotel California about a Haunted House, or What?

When I was young, the Eagles’ Hotel California was mostly admired among my set of friends for its creepiness. We all went through a certain… oooohhh spooky stuff phase as adolescent girls, and loved ghost and demon stories. That was before slasher flicks came along and ruined everything.

Anyway, I’ve heard since then that the song is not about supernatural doings, but about the music industry…or else about, …well god knows what.

I listened to the lyrics this morning, and it definitely appears to have a swapped gender Manos feel to it. Guy pulls up at a hotel, goes to a party, and sees rich people trying to eat a not quite dead animal (I always saw it as a cross between a cow and a pig type animal, but that’s just me. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a chicken.) Guy tries to escape in a hurry, but cannot because dark forces won’t let him. HE’S TRAPPED FOREVER, AH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAAAAAH!!!

Anyway, were me and my friends hearing stuff that was not there, so to speak?

What is Hotel California about anyway?

Just to keep the thread going after the answer, what creepy songs did you like when you were young…or not so young?

For one, they are not literally eating an animal. They’re doing heroin.

“They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.”

“The steely knives” are their needles and “the beast” refers to their addiction.

Not surprisingly, that is a question that’s been debated for decades. :slight_smile: As per the Wikipedia article on the song, the band members have told different explanations over the years, but the consensus seems to be that it’s mostly an allegory about the excesses and decadence of (take your pick) American culture / Los Angeles / the music industry.

I always saw it as more Lovecraftian, kind of like the tentacle-thing in the Greg Kihn Band’s “Jeopardy” video. I have no idea what Th’Iggles had in mind for the meaning, really.

As for creepy songs, there were quite a few that got Doctor Demento play back in the 80s/90s…Harry Chapin had a song about a tractor-trailer of bananas that crashed horrifically (“30,000 Pounds Of Bananas”?) and of course, that celebration of cannibalism, “Timothy”.

Harry Chapin did “Thirty Thousand Pounds Of Bananas”.

Hotel California for some reason is associated in my mind with the Harlan Ellison story Shattered like a Glass Goblin, maybe because it, too, is about a house in LA inhabited by addicts, tends to trap people inside, and has generally creepy stuff in it. Even though it came out a decade earlier.

It’s about drugs. Just like 99% of songs. It’s right in the name:

(H)otel = Heroin
©alifornia = Cocaine

Unrelated anecdote: I was in a hospital some years back, and my roommate was an elderly, rather grumpy and demanding man. The nurse came in at the start of her shift and he asked her for a cup of coffee. She told him, “I’m just starting my rounds and have to check in on all of my patients, but as soon as I get back to the nurses’ station, I’ll be glad to make a fresh pot.” The old man said, “I want to check out.” The nurse replied, “Honey, this is the Hotel California. You can check out, but you can’t leave.” :smiley:

I don’t disagree that it’s about drugs (though not solely), but that bit about the title is a stretch.

wiki:* “According to Glenn Frey’s liner notes for The Very Best Of, the use of the word “steely” in the lyric, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast,” was a playful nod to the band Steely Dan, who had included the lyric “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening” in their song “Everything You Did”.[15] Frey had also said that the writing of the song was inspired by the boldness of Steely Dan’s lyrics and its willingness to go “out there”,[12] and thought that the song they wrote had “achieved perfect ambiguity.”[14]”*

Heroin. It’s always about heroin.

There’s plenty of room for interpretation in the Hotel California.

I’ve read / heard many interviews and quotes from the band and as mentioned before, it’s about the inescapable heaven/hell life that is fame and the music industry in L.A.
The “steely knives” line is a private joke between the Eagles and Steely Dan - I don’t remember the exact origins; maybe something about one’s album beating the others in the charts or something. Also, I seem to recall that one of the “secret” scratchings they used to put on their vinyl was a message to SD. You all probably know that “colitas” is a reference to plants (Henley says they’re plants that grow in the desert but Ima gonna say it refers to pot). My friends and I used to giggle at the thought of the “warms smell of COLITIS rising up through the air”:eek::stuck_out_tongue: I
The album cover (damn, I miss album covers)definitely lends a creepy air and falls in with the the haunted hotel story. I remember spending hours pouring over the inner fold photo trying to make out the supposed figure of “the beast”.

“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” used to wig me out and fascinate me at the same time. The line “he saw Andy lying on the floor in a puddle of blood” really made my skin crawl.

Oh sure. Next you’ll be telling me Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is not about LSD.

or “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton is not about Ecstasy.


Pretty sure it was intended to be unclear and mysterious so people would always wonder about it.

Looks like they succeeded!

I think it’s important to remember that “Life in the Fast Lane” is on the same side of the album, and is essentially about the same thing–a lifestyle that spins out of control, into decadence and self-destruction–except in a more explicit and less allegorical, stylized way (though with its car imagery, LITFL does indulge in a few metaphors, too).

That black janitor in the gatefold photo? Corpse, propped up on the broom.

I took it to be about mental illness. Schizophrenia. Having hallucinations. You see strange things, and think they are normal. You don’t see anything wrong with you, but you can never leave*. At least, until a panel of doctors clears you.

Helping that is the “fact” I heard that the “hotel” on the cover is really Camarillo State Mental Hospital (it isn’t).

*you can., of course, “check out” with a daily dosage of thorazine. See? it all fits!

I have a tangential story also. About the time this song was being played constantly on the radio, my mom took me to the doctor (I was around 8) in San Francisco, and on the way back we had to take the Bay Bridge/580 eastbound to go back to the central valley. It was dark by the time we got out of the doctor’s office and my mom got lost just about the time we passed this place, prominantly visible from 580 eastbound: California Hotel

She got off the highway and looped around trying to get herself oriented, and we passed it again when she felt like she was still lost. Pulled off again and found her way to a gas station where she asked for directions. As we followed their directions, we passed by it a third time, leading to much joking about us being lost in Hotel California.

(If you find it on the map, you can see that she wasn’t lost at all!)

Nah, it’s about running for the Presidency. The Hotel California is the White House, the “beast” is…well, you know…