Music Analysis:
01 | 02 | 03 | 04
Hotel California - Allegory and Economical Lyrics
Albums: Hotel California, 1976 & Hell Freezes Over, 1994

Verse II & Refrain II - Visual Movement
Change scenes. Daylight. Leave your hotel rooms and head outside to the sunshine! Our protagonist is still enjoying the beautiful woman, now a little more closely since there is little more than candlelight! He starts noticing her expensive jewelry (Tiffany & Co. is one of the more popular brand jewelry stores), the luxurious vehicles, and curvaceous body barely covered in revealing thin garments (tiffany also means a thin silk garment). He is obviously sexually attracted to her (the sexual grunt, ‘uh’ gives this away) as he watches her dance with a lot of good-looking boys bathing in ‘sweet summer sweat.’ To his relief she calls all of them ‘just friends.’

Turn the camera towards the bar. He is now sold on the Hotel and its lifestyle. He calls up the bartender to bring him some wine. The bartender says, ‘it’s been quite a while (since 1969) since they had this much fun,’ as he offers him a drink.

Move into the protagonist’s hotel room. He wakes up in the middle of the night as he continues to hear the Hotel choir’s refrain welcoming him to the place, but it gets increasingly distant as he settles into the lifestyle and starts ‘livin’ it up!’


Verse II & Refrain II - Emotions and Perceptions Movement  
Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends, uh!
Our protagonist is now fascinated with this woman (again used very effectively to symbolize the luxurious life). Tiffany twisted means it is sophisticated and attractive yet convoluted and difficult to understand (which is by design to keep the aspiring musicians in the dark long enough to trap them). Mercedes bends, again, cleverly refers to the luxurious vehicles and curvaceous bodies, thereby pointing to the sumptuous life to which he was getting sexually drawn into.



She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, she calls friends
He’s attracted to this voluptuous woman who already seems to have several pretty boys after her, but he is hopeful because she says those are only her friends! This is an elaboration of the convoluted life, which, while enticing the darkest desires of your mind, tries to show that it is somehow justified until your inhibitions disappear into thin air and you have no sense of moral control over your own life.



How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
Again, the use of brilliant cinematic direction to draw an effective picture in the minds of the audience of the protagonist’s growing attraction to hedonism.



Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
This is trying to say that newcomers who are yet to realize the downside of the hedonistic life, just like the protagonist, are hopeful about building good relationships with this woman, while the others who have been long enough to get trapped and have no escape, are dancing to forget their pain. Notice that this line represents the protagonist reflecting on his past experiences. As far as the story goes, he is only starting to get entangled in all the superficial glamour.



So I call up the Captain, ‘please bring me my wine’
Sold on the lifestyle on offer, he asks the Recording Industry owners (captain) to give him a chance to live like he’s witnessed on display; more specifically, he accepts a recording contract. Wine is used symbolically for blood, especially of Jesus Christ, which in turn means life.



He said, ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’
And the captain says, in disguised language, ‘we have not had that kind of enthusiasm since 1969,’ which is what the hopeful protagonist hears; in the owners’ terms, ‘spirit’ here means Christ or goodness, and ‘since 1969’ is a reference to the last year of the 1960s and therefore emphasizing the 1970s. So the owner is saying all goodness left this Industry around the dawn of the 70s! It heightens the complex terms and conditions that these Recording Industry owners put into already blind-sighted, aspiring musicians’ contracts that seem glossy on surface, but tells a whole different story in reality. Unless you thought in symbols and the context of the song, these two lines will simply mean what the protagonist hears. They are absolutely brilliant that genius is not a strong enough word to describe them!



And still those voices are coming from far away
This is saying that his hopes are still alive although possibly his initial aspirations have now changed or his hopes are slowly dwindling due to reasons he may not be able to comprehend clearly.



Wake you up in the middle of the night just to hear them say
His thoughts and excitement (and perhaps gradually building fear) wakes him up in the middle of the night. The duality of the meaning is incredible and slowly brings in the shift in the protagonist’s awakening to his reality, although not yet clearly enough.



“Welcome to the Hotel California
such a lovely place, (such a lovely place), such a lovely face.”
Livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise, (what a nice surprise), bring your alibis

This refrain builds up on the protagonist’s gradual realization of the dark side of his new life due to his experiences and encounters with the owners and the Industry at large. The key is at what point he starts to experience these encounters – when he is ‘livin’ it up!’ It shows that the owners are careful and patient to let the musicians get caught up in the lifestyle to a level where they are almost addicted to it, before they start throwing curve balls at them. Especially, in the last line, ‘what a nice surprise’ probably refers to one of his unexpected bad experiences with the owners or possibly the woman of his desire (remember this woman is a larger metaphor for the luxurious life). ‘Bring your alibis’ is a sarcastic punch at how everybody is now throwing excuses at him for not giving him what they promised him (money, freedom to move on etc.). This again highlights the twisted contracts that young and naive musicians are enticed to sign.

Verse III - Visual Movement
Hold the camera steady and shoot panorama style! Our protagonist is in his luxurious hotel room bed with his beautiful escort. The room has mirrors on the ceiling and a bottle of pink champagne immersed in ice on a table. The woman only now tells him how the style of life they are leading is an invention of their own imprisoning desires. 

Change scenes. Move to the Hotel owner’s chamber. A crowd has gathered for a feast hosted by the owners. They see a large animal being stabbed hard with sharp, steel knives, but nobody can kill the bleeding beast.

Start running with your camera! Our protagonist is shocked at what he has just witnessed! He immediately turns around to leave the Hotel and runs as fast as he can to the exit. He wants to get back to his old lifestyle. He sees an ominous looking night man guarding the exit telling him to ‘relax, we have seen people like you before and we are used to it.’ He says, ‘if you want, you can check out of the Hotel, but there is no way you can leave this place!’


Verse III - Emotions and Perceptions Movement  

Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice
Still surrounded by the glamorous hedonistic pleasures, our protagonist is now fast realizing the dark side of his new life. Mirrors on the ceiling here has a much more significant meaning than its more obvious purpose. It is a sign of the protagonist finding his reflection, or the real state of his mind, exposed at a frighteningly large scale! Pink champagne on ice too, could mean that all his thoughts of luxury and pleasure froze for that moment in time. Epiphany!



And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here of our own devise’
His woman tells him (probably when asked) how the life they are leading is a prison created by their own wild desires, to underscore what he had just realized!



In their master’s chambers they gathered for the feast
He sees other recording artists at the Recording Industry owners’ office to collect their loyalties (feast meaning money) according to their contracts only to find that there are secret clauses in the contracts that the owners only now reveal and the artists really don’t have the same rights or liberties that they thought they had!



They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast
So the artists get into these heated verbal exchanges with the owners about their rights and how they have been violated. Here, ‘Steely knives’ is most likely a little return tribute to the sharp wit of the 70s Jazz/Rock band – Steely Dan – who, in their song ‘Everything You Did’ about an unfaithful wife, from their 1976 album, The Royal Scam, paid a tribute to the Eagles and their emphasis on relationships with the line “turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening.” However, no matter how clever the artists’ arguments are, they just cannot seem to break out of the spell cast on them by materialism and win over the grip their powerful masters have over their lives.



Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
Seeing his own future unfold in those troubled artists’ experiences, our protagonist is shocked to his core and decides to leave the Industry immediately.



I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
He is headed back to the life he led prior to joining the Recording Industry where he was at least free to choose.



‘Relax,’ said the night man, ‘we are programmed to receive’
He sees an ominous looking man (night probably means he was dark in color, perhaps a strongly built African American) at the exit door, quite a shocking contrast to the delicate beauty at the entrance. The man tells him to relax, that they are used to seeing people trying to leave like he is trying to, and they are trained to handle such situations well. Programmed to receive also emphasizes how the Recording Industry, after enticing new artists with the finer things of life, traps artists with contracts not leaving them any room to leave.



‘You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!’
Check out here means cash out. The man tells the protagonist that he can collect his loyalties and money anytime he wants, but he can never leave!

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