Somewhere in a small town in Tennessee, a young 14-year-old girl sits by her record player and listens to Hotel California by the Eagles. The year is 1977 and the carpets are shag. The fifth studio album of the Eagles is monumental in the young girl’s life, following her for years. Lingering as one of her all-time favorite albums, she still never gets Hotel California’s relaxed guitar riff out of her head.
When I asked my mom to pick out an album for me to review this week, I hadn’t anticipated Hotel California, but it clicked when I realized the overt album theme: California. Mom always told me she knew she’d come to California one day, leaving her rural upbringing to venture into practically another planet. It’s interesting to picture a once young teen listening to “Life In The Fast Lane” only for her to one day live the fast times in this metaphorical fast lane Don Henley smoothly sings.
Before having listened to this album, I had never established an identity to go along with it. After listening to it again, I imagine this album to be the soundtrack of my mom’s life. Glenn Frey’s soft sounds of “New Kid In Town” incorporate rock elements but remain rooted to a country feel. I found this to be intriguing, paralleling it back to my mom and her upbringing in the Deep South. This song sounds to be a key track within the album, as the country theme played by Don Felder seem to reminisce old “bluegrass and country & western claims” once performed by former guitarist Bernie Leadon who departed the Eagles and at the time was replaced with “funk-rock” guitarist Joe Walsh.
Though the song touches on fleeting love, the title itself is spot on for my mom, and just about anyone who’s ever felt timid in entering a new surrounding. The song is simplistic yet complicated, vulnerable yet personable. Overall, Hotel California was a transitional album for the Eagles, setting them apart from their prior works and distinguishing them as versatile musicians with intuitive lyrics and instrumentation. I try to place myself in my mom’s position as a 14-year-old girl in Tennessee and a 23-year-old woman new to Los Angeles. Though almost a decade apart in age, Hotel California perfectly reflects both periods in my mom’s life. A soundtrack about the longing of adventure and a soundtrack about a newly achieved dream.