Flashback: The Eagles Play an Epic ‘Hotel California’ in 1977
After doing a test run in Las Vegas late last month, the Eagles have announced plans to perform their landmark 1976 LP Hotel California on tour next year. The shows start in Atlanta on February 7th and last through April 18th at the Forum in Inglewood, California, but it’s quite possible they’ll add more dates before it ends.
If they stick to the Las Vegas version of the show, expect them to open with the entire LP straight through before taking a short break and then kicking into a long set of other hits like “Take It Easy,” “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Take It to the Limit,” along with a handful of solo tunes like Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” and Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.”
The Eagles have sold more albums than just about any act in the history of the record industry, but Hotel California remains their most popular LP. (Technically, however, they have sold more copies of their Greatest Hits record.) The title track began with an instrumental demo that guitarist Don Felder recorded onto a cassette tape.
“It was a simple demo — a progression of arpeggiated guitar chords, along with some hornlike sustained note lines, all over a simple 4/4 drum-machine pattern,” Henley told Rolling Stone in 2016. “There may have been some Latin-style percussion in there, too. I think I was driving down Benedict Canyon Drive at night, or maybe even North Crescent Drive (adjacent to the Beverly Hills Hotel) the first time I heard the piece, and I remember thinking, ‘This has potential; I think we can make something interesting out of this.’”
Henley wrote most of the lyrics himself. “I feel it important to point out that Glenn contributed some very important lines to that set of lyrics,” he said in 2016. “Those lyrics employ what Glenn used to call ‘the perfect ambiguity,’ and are open to a wide array of interpretations — and we’ve seen some doozies. But the song has somehow resonated all around the globe.”
Here’s video of the band performing “Hotel California” at the Capitol Centre in Washington, D.C., on March 21st, 1977, three months after the album hit. The group playing it onstage next year, however, is going to look quite different than this one. Bassist Randy Meisner quit the band just six months after this show, Don Felder was let go in 2001 after a business dispute and Glenn Frey died in 2016. Don Henley and Joe Walsh are the sole remaining members that played on Hotel California, though bassist Timothy B. Schmit has been in the band since late 1977.
Don Henley initially said the Eagles would retire after Glenn Frey died. “It would just seem like greed or something,” he said. “It would seem like a desperate thing.” He changed his mind when Glenn’s son Deacon practiced with the band and seamlessly fit into the mix. They began playing shows with Deacon and Vince Gill covering Glenn’s vocal parts in 2017 and gigged all over the world this past year.
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