1. Don Felder did not expect the song to be a hit.
Knowing full well that most radio hits at the time clocked in around the three-minute mark, Don Felder thought there was no way “Hotel California” would take off. “‘Hotel California’ is six minutes, the intro is a minute long, it stops in the middle with no drums and you’ve got a two-minute guitar solo at the end,” he said to MusicRadar in 2012. “It’s the absolute wrong format for a single.” He was mistaken.
2. The working title was “Mexican Reggae.”
As Don Felder began to build the foundation of the song, he presented his progress to bandmate Don Henley. “Henley came back and said he really liked that song, and I think he kind of nicknamed it ‘Mexican Reggae,'” Felder recalled on Uncle Joe Benson’s Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show. “And I went, ‘Oh, okay. ‘Mexican Reggae.’ That sounds good to me.”
3. When it came time to record the song, Don Felder had forgotten what he’d written.
When the band sat down to record the song, Don Henley insisted the track be cut like the original demo. But having written it a year earlier, Felder could not recall what he had played. “I had left my original cassette in my studio in Los Angeles in Malibu,” he told UCR. “So I had to call my housekeeper, have her go find the cassette, put it in a blaster, play it over the phone, so we could record it in the studio in Miami. Then I had to sit down and learn what I had just made up, note for note from the hip because Don wanted it just like the demo.”
4. “Steely knives” is a reference to Steely Dan, who inspired Eagles to expand their lyrical horizons.
“One of the things that impressed us about Steely Dan was that they would say anything in their songs, and it didn’t have to necessarily make sense,” Glenn Frey said on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show. “They called it ‘joke sculpture.’ But it was also meant to be playful repartee.” “Walter Becker’s girlfriend loved the Eagles, and she played them all the time,” Frey told Cameron Crowe. “I think it drove him nuts. So, the story goes that they were having a fight one day, and that was the genesis of the line, ‘Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening’ in ‘Everything You Did,’ from Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam album. During the writing of ‘Hotel California,’ we decided to volley.”
5. “Mercedes bends” is not a typo.
When the album was released, the songs’ lyrics were included. Some fans assumed the misspelling of “Mercedes bends” was an error, but it was a purposeful play on words, emphasizing the woman’s fanatical and “Tiffany-twisted” mind.
6. There are countless theories as to the architectural inspiration behind “Hotel California.”
Eagles maintained the song was always an overarching metaphor for the fleeting materialism and wealth of California, but fans began to wonder if a real-life hotel had inspired the song. Various interpretations arose, according to Songfacts, ranging from local psychiatric hospitals to Aleister Crowley’s mansion in Scotland to the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.