Hotel California Song: Analysis of Themes

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The Eagles start their song “Hotel California” by describing the environment as someone was driving on a dark desert highway in California and the wind was blowing in his hair where he could sense the smell of colitas (burning of little marijuana) until he eventually saw a shimmering light, where this description of driving in LA could be tied to the reading “All the Saints of the city of the Angels” by J. Michael Walker, which scopes the spirit of LA on its streets; where he describes the method of getting around in LA is by car where there are a lot of streets that spread across the city, however you only use a few of them to get where you want. Also, Michael Walker found intersections between streets and Saints in Los Angeles.

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Consequently, after he saw the shimmering light, he decided to stop the car and see what it is all about. This could also be tied to the city of Los Angeles as the shimmering light here could represent the hope and light at the end of the tunnel of being accepted in the community as Los Angeles is considered to be a city that hosts a lot of diversity by accepting all its immigrants regardless of their religious or sexual background without them needing to hide or disguise as anything else. This could be tied to the reading “Surviving Urbanization” by Heather Valdez Singleton and the article “Tongva Village Turned World City” by South Monte Arts Posse exploring the Tongva or Gabrielinos as the original people of the Los Angeles basin who historically suffered due to their cultural and religious identity where they were forced to either change their religion or disguise as affiliating with another religion and they were also forbidden to speak their native language. All these were indications of how The Gabrielinos were not accepted within the community as their identity was denied thus feeling unwelcomed, unaccepted and not belonging to a certain place or homeland.

Then, in the song they mention that as he reaches for the light, he sees a woman standing in the doorway waiting for him. Then he questioned himself if this is heaven or hell and then she lit up a candle and showed him the way, where the way here could be portrayed as the path for certain religion as she could be perceived as a preacher that leads people and guides them to follow a certain path or direction. This was drawn upon in the reading “Artist’s statement: Sacred Los Angeles” by Dorothy Braudy, where in her project she observed various religious services and leaders with all their inclusiveness and welcoming spirit and although she found a lot of diversity in the religions present in LA, however, she found unity in their end goal and purpose of directing its followers to a right path as each religion calls on us to be our better selves.

The questioning of the place being Heaven or Hell might refer to the identity of Los Angeles as it seems something from outside and another from the inside; where you can see the glow of energy of LA from outside and then all these images start rushing into your mind of the advertisements about what you’ve experienced regarding California. This questioning brings in some sense to the anticipated media image of LA in people’s minds when they think of LA or California acting as a reality check that Los Angeles is not always a lovely welcoming place and the proof of that was The Gabrielinos who suffered historically from their identity and were forced to take up other religions, according to what was safest back then, in order to survive.

Also, how he imagines the preacher/candle bearer as a woman rather than a man who lead people to their rooms/paths portrays how faith could actually be gendered such as the religions dominated by women which was evident in the reading of “May You Never Hunger: Religious Foodways in Dianic Witchcraft” By Kerry Noonan. It discussed the gendered faith issue and how in some religions women are considered sacred.

Furthermore, along the path following the woman, he hears some voices I the corridor welcoming him to The Hotel California by saying “plenty of room at The Hotel California” showing a great deal of hospitality where this could possibly be used to symbolize the notion of feeling accepted and welcomed into a place. This also is an indication of the diversity of cultural/religious/sexual identities in LA. However, the cultural/religious diversity present in Los Angeles is not always a good thing as such diversity could lead to the abuse of that religion’s rituals or statues such as that in the reading “Buddhamania: The religious symbol as decoration? It’s complicated” by Eastman, Janet, where most people nowadays tend to use Buddha statues for decorative purpose and to bring in peace and serenity rather than its religious purpose which might be disrespectful to the religious rituals of Buddhism.

Then, he goes on describing Los Angeles’s mind as “Tiffany-Twisted” and “The Mercedes Benz” referring to its thrill about Money and Power. This is evident through the article “Tongva Village Turned World City” by South Monte Arts Posse where it was clear that the Gabrielinos suffered historically by continually being forced to hide their identity all because they had no money or power. Then, in the same chorus it was mentioned that some people dance to remember and others dance to forget where this was visible in the reading “Dancing with a Ghost” by Russell Jeung where this line indicates that people like to dance for various reasons and not because they just enjoy it. This was actually evident in the aforementioned reading where Sarah was captured dancing while she wasn’t the one initiating it, the ghost inside of her was the one to do that and they had to get a crown to offer to the ghost to get ceased ad for Sarah to stop dancing. So, in this situation the ghost was considered the one to be dancing embodied in Sarah’s body. In the song, I believe this sentence captures the hypnotic effect of dancing as it could for a moment make someone forget their daily existence and it could make them remember their youthful past events. In both cases, it’s clear that the dancer is trying to evade and escape the situation he is in right now. This chorus is actually considered the transition point from the Hotel California from being Heaven to Hell as he starts to question the place and its other side that’s not visible on the surface.

In the song, there were other references to luxury and sophistication such as mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne describing the scene at the Hotel California, however the hostess assures that “they are all prisoners of our own device. This indicated that what actually appears as freedom and a welcoming place is an illusion that people have willingly failed to resist and thus got lured into it. Then, the narrator of the song gets a glimpse of the inner circle at the Hotel of California “Master’s chambers” and what is actually going on there. They were gathering for a feast, however what they were feasting on wouldn’t be restrained which might actually be a reference for them to be feeding on their own inner cravings. After viewing this scene, the narrator tries to run away and escape. However, when he runs for the door to get back to the place he was before, the clerk tells him that there is no escape. He is trapped like all the others there he can try to check out but he can never leave. So, when you think about it that the narrator is actually telling us that which means he’s still trapped at The Hotel California so what does it really stand for?

I believe the song could also be viewed as a descriptive journey of a relationship starting from the desire of love and marriage to divorce and consequently never regaining happiness again such as that before the divorce which is evident in the line in the song that says; “You can check out anytime you like, But you can never leave”. All throughout the song, he is remembering his past marriage by saying such a lovely place and his past lover by saying such a lovely face.

Summing up, Hotel California explores a multilayered experience in Los Angeles by first it being a paradise matching one’s anticipation and expectations about Californian life however, when contemplated further, you could perceive the darker side of this paradise and this paradise starts to shift to a prison. So, you can think of it as both Heaven and Hell where at first you get lured in thinking it’s a lovely welcoming place however you become a prisoner of your own actions. This song represents the escape from oppressive reality and hopes towards new beginnings. This actually captures the reality about California where everyone getting there has a certain picture in their minds that they will be accepted no matter what they say, however when they get to experience it, their idea and picture about California changes to worse and it could be considered a hell more than a paradise.

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