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Q: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   11 Comments )
Subject: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: adamhersh-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 13 Feb 2005 14:37 PST
Expires: 15 Mar 2005 14:37 PST
Question ID: 473959
What does the lyrics to the song "Hotel California" really mean?
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 14 Feb 2005 14:59 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Thank you for accepting my findings as your answer. I've reposted the
link below, with some extra material that I think you'll find

Snopes: Hotel California

"The simple answer is that there is no true meaning to this song. The
Eagles were impressed by the way that Steely Dan could make what they
described as 'junk sculpture' songs where they took weird disjointed
lyrics, combined them with great music, and turned out hits. In fact,
this song evolved in the reverse style of song making, with the great
guitar parts of Don Felder laid down first, and then lyrics added

Although 'HC' has many disctinct images and unusual twists of phrases,
there is no meaning behind it other than to decribe a fictional place
in the desert that Henly/Frey may have visited on a drug-induced head
trip and not in their cars. It also skewers the decadence and opulence
in which every southern Californian was living, or attempting to live
at that moment in the late seventies."

Experts: Eagles, The: Hotel California

"As for 'Hotel California,'... I provide the following commonly heard theories:

(1) The Hotel California is a real hotel located in (pick one) Baja
California on the coastal highway between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz or
else near Santa Barbara.

(2) The Hotel California is a mental hospital...

(3) It's about satanism. Isn't everything?

(4) Hotel California is a metaphor for cocaine addiction. See 'You can
check out any time you like but you can never leave.' This comes from
the published comments of Glenn Frey, one of the coauthors.

(5) It's about the pitfalls of living in southern California in the 1970s...

(6) My fave, posted to the Usenet by Thomas Dzubin of Vancouver,
British Columbia: "There was this fireworks factory just three blocks
from the Hotel California . . . and it blew up!"

The Straight Dope: Hotel California

"From my present perspective, as a scholar of American literature, I
can recognize that 'Hotel California' follows in the footsteps of such
classic authors as Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel
Hawthorne, not to mention Franz Kafka. Like many of those authors'
works, 'Hotel California' tells a story that is only half the story.
The song's first-person narrator is driving in the desert. He sees a
building in the distance. It turns out to be a hotel. He decides to
stop for the night. Once inside, he experiences a series of
disquieting encounters, culminating in a hideous banquet. When he
tries to leave the hotel, he is told that it would be futile to try:
'You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.' With
this horrifying statement, the song's lyrical content comes to an

Its lack of specificity takes some of the bite out of the horrific
story. Listening to it, you get the sense that it is about something
more than a man who made a poor choice of lodging."

Bad Subjects: Hotel California: Learning How to Read

My Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "hotel california" meaning

Thanks for a thought-provoking question! 

Best regards,
adamhersh-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 13 Feb 2005 14:44 PST
Hi, Adam.

Snopes has an excellent discussion of what the lyrics mean (and what
they do not mean, in response to several rumors). Here's an excerpt:

"Hotel California is an allegory about hedonism and greed in Southern
California in the 1970s. At the time of its release, the Eagles were
riding high in the music world, experiencing material success on a
frightening level. Though they thoroughly enjoyed the money, drugs,
and women fame threw their way, they were disquieted by it all and
sought to pour that sense of unease into their music and to warn
others about the dark underside of such adulation.

In a 1995 interview, Don Henley said the song 'sort of captured the
zeitgeist of the time, which was a time of great excess in this
country and in the music business in particular.' In another interview
that same year, he referred to it as being about a 'loss of

The album has as its underlying theme the corruption of impressionable
rock stars by the decadent Los Angeles music industry. The celebrated
title track presents California as a gilded prison the artist freely
enters only to discover that he cannot later escape.

The real Hotel California is not a place; it is a metaphor for the
west coast music industry and its effect on the talented but unworldy
musicians who find themselves ensnared in its glittering web."

If that satisfies your curiosity fully, I'll be glad to repost the
link as your official answer. If not, let us know what else you need
to know about the lyrics.
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: silver777-ga on 14 Feb 2005 03:41 PST
Hi Adam and Pink,

Gotta, gotta, gotta ask, as this song is one of the best. Thanks for
your asking Adam.

What are your intepretations of the line : "They stab it with their
steely knives, yet they just can't kill the beast". ????

Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: tunatuk-ga on 14 Feb 2005 11:51 PST
I think they are referring to drug use...they stab themselves with
needles, but at the same time, they can't kill the habit they want to
quit.  Just a guess anyway.
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 14 Feb 2005 12:36 PST

I also interpret the "steely knives" line as being about drug use. It
seems like a cocaine reference to me: the steely knives are the
single-edged razor blades that are commonly used in separating out
"lines" of cocaine to be snorted. "The beast" is the addiction.
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: adamhersh-ga on 14 Feb 2005 14:19 PST
pinkfreud - Looks like an answer to me :)
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: silver777-ga on 14 Feb 2005 19:42 PST
Hi A, P and T,

Uh huh. The drug area is one where I am happily naive, excepting my
legal scotch and cigarettes. Now the song unfortunately makes sense.
All along I had pictured a guy on a motorbike, shimmering distant
light, cool wind and all as he found an out of the way boarding house
(or brothel) with a hedonistic secret, hence .. "you can check out ..
but you can never leave" raises a question. I see now that "checking
out" refers to suicide.

Gee thanks guys!

Phil the Innocent
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 15 Feb 2005 13:53 PST
I'm sorry you weren't fully satisfied, Adam. What else did you need?
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: christian_guy-ga on 09 Mar 2005 22:27 PST
For many that dont know this that "Hotel California" is a Satanistic
church, that worship satan. It could be about drugs to cause some
songs have more than one meaning. it is somewhat about drugs but
mainly about the church in California.
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" REALLY mean?
From: brmecham-ga on 08 Jul 2005 15:01 PDT
it makes sense that the song has to do with the Church of Satan...
Anton La Vey founded the Church of Satan, which is the notorious Hotel California.

"This could be Heaven or this could be Hell."  The life of a satanist
can be full of all the worldly pleasures you can imagine, $$ Millions
$$, cars, houses, women (or men).  In the scriptures we know that Cain
was the first of this kind, who made a secret pact with satan, in
exchange for wordly desires, see:
Moses Chapter 5...
29 And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou
tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by
the living God, that they tell it not; for if they tell it, they shall
surely die; and this that thy father may not know it; and this day I
will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.
30 And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his
acommands?. And all these things were done in secret."

The woman in this song could be a prostitute, those are common among
secret societies.  "She's got the Mercedes bends, She's got a lot of
pretty, pretty boys" the worldly promises of Satan.

"Welcome to the Hotel California, Such a lovely place" for this type
of people, evil is such a lovely place.

"So I called up the Captain Please bring me my wine.  He said "We
haven't had that spirit here since 1969."" (The Church of Satan was
founded at the "Hotel California" in 1969.  Wine was always a symbol
of the blood of Christ.. they hadn't had "that spirit" (referring to
the Spirit of Christ, or a good spirit) since it became a place of
satanic worship.)

"Mirrors on the ceiling, Pink champagne on ice." again representing
the immoralities in the Church of Satan, prostitution, lust, etc.

"And she said 'We are all just prisoners here Of our own device'" They
are prisoners because once they have entered into a covenant with
Satan that deal cannot be broken, they have gotten themselves into
this mess.

"And in the master's chambers, They gathered for the feast, They stab
it with their steely knives, But they just can't kill the beast." 

"Last thing I remember I was running for the door, I had to find the
passage back to the place I was before" (The man realized that he
didn't want to be involved in all of this evilness, he wanted to get

"Relax said the nightman, We are programed to recieve.  You can check
out any time you like, But you can never leave."  (To enter the most
elite part of secret societies one must offer up human sacrifice as
Cain did.  The statement "You can check out any time you like, But you
can never leave" is similar to Cain's deal with Satan that the murder
of Abel will be kept secret.  It's all about secret combinations (you
can read about the warnings about secret combinations in the Book of
Mormon).  Just like in secret societies today, once you are in you
can't leave.. the only way to "check out" is through death.  You'll
either have to kill yourself or if you try to leave those
organizations or speak out about what's going on you will be killed.)
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: elliea-ga on 28 Jul 2005 23:12 PDT
I am sorry but Brmecham, this sounds like total BS. I doubt the sound
is a bout the Devil or a cult (though it is possible) The song however
is NOT about human sacrifice. That is just over zealous interpretation
and jumping to unsupported conclusions. The Eagles where also not
Mormon so nothing found in the Book of Mormon is at all related to
this song.
Subject: Re: What does the song "Hotel California" really mean?
From: eljefe08-ga on 09 Nov 2005 13:51 PST
go to to
see that "Hotel California" is about satanism. Where Don Heneley says
himself that the song is a symbol of satan.

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