First Hit #1: May 7, 1977
I’m sure there are many bands that have made creepy songs, but none are nearly as pleasant as Hotel California. The lyrics could be the basis of a horror story, a hotel where one becomes trapped in a strange hedonistic nightmare. All horror stories are basically metaphors, this one is no different, and it can range from something as compact as being in a popular band surrounded by luxury, or a big expansive treatise on the American Dream, depending on how you want to play it. The guitar solo which ends the track is also somewhat unnerving, given that you’ve just listened to the song and the sudden uptick in pace suggests an escape from this hotel, where one can check out but never leave.
But it’s also a song where the lyrics change a lot about it, since before you get into the words it’s a really nice bit of country-rock, the kind that made the Eagles’ name. And it’s a very strong instrumental, an instantly recognizable opening that sets the mood in a way that doesn’t quite prepare you for the story being told. From the opening notes, it could go in any direction, but full on creepy is not quite what you expect. It’s a clever bit of song craft.