Revisit The Hotel California….

Hotel California

The rumors are out there still.

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

You can’t kill some myths although they’ve been disproved time and again. The lyrics and album cover photo of the Eagles’ signature tune “Hotel California” are some of these. The popular 1970’s song tells the story of a weary traveler who checks into a luxurious, upscale hotel only to discover all may not be as it appears

But 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.  And of course the “stab it with their steely knives” line made the place run by cannibals.  Makes sense.  If you are insane yourself…

And let’s not even mention, “just can’t kill the beast”.

Because 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”.    So  from all this comes:

 -The song is a tribute to where the satanic bible was written.  

-Devil worshipers bought an old church and named it “The Hotel California”.

-Some or all of the Eagles were either heavily involved with the occult or disciples of LaVay.  

-All of the album photographs were taken in and around the building that used to be Lavay’s headquarters for his church of satan (which wan’t the case…the album cover was shot at he Beverly Hills Hilton).  

– In California the ‘church of satan is registered under the name ‘Hotel California’.

Ooooooh.    Very Scary….

But the 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.

But if you go on the internet there are still those out there that are convinced that this is a “devil” song.  There are also full websites concluding that Paul McCartney has been dead since 1966 and Elvis is still alive. 

Have any musical urban legends?


4 responses


    Musical urban legends? I’ve heard a number of people INSIST that Justin Bieber is talented. Doesn’t get much stranger than that.

    Or do you mean like the ones that claim that John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Jeff Lynne, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison (among others) were in actuality space aliens who were sent to usher in an age of peace and love prior to a great influx of visitors from outer space. I mean, after all, their names ALL start with ‘J’. right J? Ummm, just forget I said anything, J! Nevermind!

    May 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

  2. Reblogged this on The Black Jacket Blog.

    October 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  3. Mark

    The iconic cover photo of the album is of the Beverly Hills Hotel (not the Beverly Hilton), but the interior shot of the lobby was actually taken at the old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has since been remodeled. Henley later recalled the band’s crew rounded up a variety of people from the neighborhood that captured the essence of that undercurrent of excess—the lust for it and the price eventually paid. Along with Sgt. Pepper, the album art for Hotel California captured the era as seamlessly and potently as the music.

    June 19, 2013 at 2:19 am

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