Hotel California

Describing the origins of this Eagles ballad, lead guitarist Don Felder once said, “If you drive into L.A. at night, you can just see this glow on the horizon of lights, and the images that start running through your head of Hollywood and all the dreams that you have.” While “Hotel California” captures the experience of chasing the California Dream—as Henley, Frey, and Felder traveled from the Midwest and Florida to chase theirs—the song echoes greater Homeric themes of the traveler faced with seductive sirens and tempting vices. As has been the case for many who travel the long highways to California looking to strike it rich (and even for those who do), underbelly culture can present another type of journey, one through the excesses of drug abuse, partying, and fame from which it’s nearly impossible to recover. This allegorical road song reminds us that while optimism might encourage us to take to the road in pursuit of our dreams, we can easily become trapped by the cruel optimism of reality.