The lyrics of HOTEL CALIFORNIA describe the title establishment as a luxury resort where
" you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
On the surface, it tells the tale of a weary traveler who becomes trapped in a nightmarish luxury hotel that at first appears inviting and tempting. The song is an allegory about HEDONISM, greed and self-destruction in the music industry of the late 1970s.
Don Henley called it " our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles " and later reiterated
" it's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about."
In 2008, Don Felder described the origins of the lyrics:
"Don Henley and Glenn wrote most of the words. All of us kind of drove into L.A. at night. Nobody was from California, and 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, and so it was kind of about that... what we started writing the song about. Coming into L.A.... and from that 'Life in the Fast Lane' came out of it, and 'Wasted Time' and a bunch of other songs."
In a 2009 interview, music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley this about the lyrics:
" On Hotel California you sing: " So I called up the captain / 'Please bring me my wine' /
He said, We haven't had that spirit here since 1969."
" I realize I'm probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn't a spirit.
Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?"
"Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you're not the first to bring this to my attention -
and you're not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor.
Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are
made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to
do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement.
My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the
purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and
irrelevant argument about chemical processes."
The term " colitas " in the first stanza of the song is a Spanish term for " little tails " and in Mexican slang it is a reference to the buds of the Cannabis plant.
And in the third strophe the text:
" Her mind is Tiffany twisted "
" She got the Mercedes bends " which is NOT " Mercedes Benz " as some lyrics suggest, but the bends is a disease here.
The word " bends " means:
the state of being under the influence of drugs. The term is a metaphor created by Radiohead, comparing the effects of pressure on scuba divers to the effects of drugs on users.
" He looks kinda messed up..." " Yeah, he's got the bends "