October 17, 2021

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How the Eagles Peaked With ‘Hotel California’


The Eagles were one of the most popular musical acts of the 1970s, and they hit their peak with their landmark Hotel California album. The now-classic album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart on Jan. 15, 1977.

Hotel California marked guitarist and singer Joe Walsh’s recording debut as a member of the Eagles. A veteran of the James Gang and a successful solo career, he replaced departing guitarist Bernie Leadon in the group, and Hotel California found the Eagles completing their metamorphosis from a more country-leaning band to a more rock-oriented act, though some songs on Hotel California still had an underlying country influence.

While not strictly a concept album, Hotel California explored lyrical themes of the dark side of the music scene in Los Angeles in the ’70s, likening it to the culture at large. While the California country-rock scene that gave rise to the Eagles in the early ’70s had been relatively innocent and uncorrupted by commercial concerns, their massive success, along with that of Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and more, had turned it into big business. In many ways, Hotel California was a world-weary document of the damaging excesses of fame, money and drugs, told first-hand by those who were experiencing them.

The group scored a pair of No. 1 hits with the album’s lead single, “New Kid in Town,” as well as its title song, “Hotel California.” The third single from the project, “Life in the Fast Lane,” peaked at No. 11, and the album itself spent eight non-consecutive weeks at the top of the charts.

Hotel California would also prove the Eagles’ artistic peak, scoring a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, while its title song won Record of the Year and “New Kid in Town” won for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices.

The band struggled mightily in the wake of the success of Hotel Californa, which would eventually go on to sell 26 million copies in the U.S. alone. Bassist Randy Meisner followed Leadon out the door in 1977, replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. The sessions for their next album, The Long Run, took years to complete, and the album was nowhere near the artistic accomplishment that Hotel California represented. The band finally splintered in 1980 after Glenn Frey and guitarist Don Felder argued onstage in front of a concert audience and nearly came to blows backstage.

The band members would not work together again until 1993, when they reunited to appear in the video for Travis Tritt’s cover of “Take It Easy.” They reunited for a full-blown tour in 1994, and they’ve toured and recorded in various lineups ever since.

See Inside Glenn Frey’s Sprawling California Mansion:

See Inside Don Henley’s Hollywood Bungalow:





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