Stab it with their steely knives…

Hotel California

Ever heard the rumors?

The song was written about either A) the devil or B) a madhouse.

Because the lyrics to the song contain kind of ominous undercurrent, many have gone to the trouble to find figurative and literal meanings that just aren’t there.  Theories abound.

Some persist the song must be written about an actual building (there WAS no ‘Hotel California’) so they assert it was a nickname for the Camarillo State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric hospital near Los Angeles which housed thousands of patients during its sixty year span before closing in 1997.

To them the lyrics seem to fit what a “mentally disturbed” person would experience incarcerated in a long-term care “madhouse”.  The imagery of the song is explained as that person’s hallucinations with moments of the startling clarity of knowing where he is.

But the far more common legend to surface about the song is one that links it to devil worship.

The lyrics of “just can’t kill the beast” and not having “that spirit here since 1969” which is supposedly when California’s church of Satan began.

On the inner album (gatefold) cover there is a photograph where some see a shadowy figure on a balcony with his arms spread.  There are those that say it is Anton LaVay, leader of the church of satan, and he is welcoming all the innocents below to the trap.  “You can never leave”.

Ooooooh.    Very Scary.

Truth is, the person in the balcony was a woman hired for the photo shoot.

The song (as well as the album) is allegory about hedonism and greed in Southern California in the 70’s.  Period.  Especially in the music business.

By the time the record came out the Eagles were riding high.   Yes, pun intended.  Drugs, money and women were thrown to them with their fame.

Though they definitely enjoyed it all, they decided to pour their sense of unease into the record.  ‘Hotel California’ is a metaphor for the 70’s, the music industry and the “accidental” prison freely entered only to realize the trap.

Have any other theories?  Ever hear any of the urban legends?



5 responses

  1. Terri

    I always thought it was about drugs, the allure of drugs and the downfall you take from addiction.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  2. bob greasy

    I read somewhere that “steely knives” was a reference to Steely Dan. Apparently there was some sort of rivalry among the two bands.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

  3. When I was in the Boy Scouts (yes, I’m an Eagle scout! Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly…etc) we had a man come speak to us at camp about the Eagles and their terrible Devil worship. This album is ALL ABOUT SATAN, he said, and discussed at length the band’s devotion to all things evil. Being a budding disc-jockey to be at the time, I already knew a great deal about the Eagles and the mental image of Glenn “Roach” Frey bowing down before Beelzebub made me laugh out loud. Mr. Preacher didn’t like that much.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm


    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”. (Wikipedia)

    February 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm

  5. Dan Steely

    Thanks for clearing that up John.

    February 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s