Hotel California

I had a long, lazy lunch by myself at a cafe this weekend. I sat back in my seat, enjoying a quiet drink and my book. Over the speakers drifted a rush of 70s-80s hits which is their usual repertoire. Since it was lunchtime I guess, I was spared the agonies of the disco hits of that age and instead played a more mellow selection.

As the starting chords of Hotel California drifted over the speakers I mused that this was one of those songs that just caught the fancy of a large group of people who then claimed to ‘love’ the group that played it, even if it wasn’t their best song. Just like Another Brick in the Wall or Sound of Silence or Sultans of Swing.

And as always, my next association with the song was “AntiChrist!!!!” I haven’t been a believer in any religion for years and years now. But then again, in religion, just like in language and culture, I’ve been an orphan child. I grew up in an environment strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism. There was my school, over a century old, steeped in the influence of the church that owned it. There was the old, old village surrounding the old building, where most of the kids came from ….a predominantly Catholic environment. One funny memory I have is of my English. My parents insisted that I spoke good English and of course Scrabble and books were the chosen hobbies for me. Back in school however, I was surrounded by the typical ‘What man?’ and “Don’t sit on the dekkz, I’ll tell to teacher!” (with all due respect to my Christian friends, but this is how my childhood friends spoke!). ‘Bad English’ was a cardinal crime at home and this ‘good English’ was considered snooty and weird to the kids in school. So I smoothly transitioned between the two, neither group ever suspecting that I could speak the other type of English as well.

Hmm. As we grew, so did our beliefs and biases. Our early memories stay on even if our beliefs change which is why I never hear the Eagles without also thinking about the strong influence of the Roman Catholic church on my life. And yet, oddly enough it was my Christian friends who introduced me to the Eagles. And to dancing and wine.

All those years I thought I didn’t fit in, I just didn’t belong. But my rebellion, my weirdness was as much a part of our world as their adherance, their judgement. I had to fight to break freeΒ but then again,Β a jail might as well be home to some.Β 

Hotel California isn’t exactly a romantic song. And it probably isn’t romantic to be thinking of old friends and fears. But it reminds me of those who owned me once, when it was still possible for someone to harness me. In this age of freedom, I almost miss being captivated.

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was meant for
Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

8 thoughts on “Hotel California

  1. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” haunts me always and maybe is the reason I listen to this song…

  2. “Some Dance to remember, some dance to forget”…is my favorite line!! No one will understand why!!

  3. Nice post, but Sound of Silence is a misfit in the list of examples.

    Love will keep us alive, Shine on you crazy diamonds, Sound of silence and So far away.


    Not Unforgiven-II, Wonderwall, Smoke on the water, With or without you etc.

    November rain is an exception.

  4. “a jail as well might be home to some” – beautiful …shifting of positionality vis-a-vis concepts may not be freedom..seeing everything as a concept and losing positionality maybe…

  5. One of your best, ma’m.

    But two points – you shouldn’t mention the Eagles in the same breath with Knopfler or Paul Simon.
    Second, the US holding area at Guantanamo Bay was dubbed Hotel California because … ‘you can check out but you can never leave’!


  6. @ S, Ashish, GreyShades: I think that’s what appeals to most people about this song…not knowing why they like it.

    @ SwB: Ae man, don’t bleddy yaap, okaaay? We talk straight, no? :-p

    @ Ojas: Tastes differ. I prefer ‘The Boxer’ and ‘Homeward Bound’. ‘Desperado’ for the Eagles and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Dire Straits.

    @ Sundar: Thank you!

    @ J.A.P.: No? I’m not snobbish about chronology or any other classification. Some songs just ‘speak’ to me and some don’t, source irrespective. And yeah, I’ve heard that one but didn’t know if it was just a tale.

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