How the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ Evolved From ‘Mexican Reggae’
During the creative process, songs can go through all kinds of changes before arriving at the finished product. The Eagles' "Hotel California" was one such track and, in recalling how it was written, guitarist Don Felder revealed that Don Henley originally had a different name for it.
"I had rented a little beach house out in Malibu, and I was sitting on a couch with a pair of cut-off jeans and my kids were playing in the sand out in the front," Felder told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show. "It was, I think, July or something, it was a beautiful Southern California day with the sun kind of sparkling on the water. I had a 12-string guitar and I was just, like, kicking around with it, looking for ideas and picking and kind of goofing around – and I came across that introduction to 'Hotel,' that chord progression."
Before he could forget it, Felder went to a bedroom where he kept a four-track tape recorded. A week later, when he was sorting through his tapes to bring to the Eagles, he decided to build upon that recording, adding bass, a drum machine and "almost all of the guitar parts that you hear on the record." He gave each of his bandmates a cassette to see if there was anything on there that struck their fancy.
"So, Henley came back and said he really liked that song and I think he kind of nicknamed it 'Mexican Reggae.' And I went, 'Oh, OK. 'Mexican Reggae.' That sounds good to me. So, Henley came up with the idea of 'Hotel California' and just did a masterful job, I think, of providing the lyrics to that song."
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