Singing the song Hotel California this morning, I listened to the lyrics for the first time. The song isn’t about a hotel. Don Henley of the Eagles said it’s “…about the dark underbelly of the American Dream and excess in America.” Talking about the 70’s.
I found a 2009 interview, where music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley about the words So I called up the captain / ‘Please bring me my wine’ / He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.’ Soeder said, “I realize I’m probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn’t a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?
Henley’s reply? “Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you’re not the first to bring this to my attention—and you’re not the first to…miss the metaphor. Believe me, I’ve consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is.
But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It’s a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.” (The Plain Dealer March 20, 2009)
Ouch. Glad I wasn’t interviewing him. I didn’t understand the metaphor either at first. Probably not cool enough, which is fine by me. I’m glad that era is over. It did seem to me as if the early 60’s opened a door to self expression and independence of mind but it bled into something dark and destructive.
And the cool people were the ones who took indulgence to extremes. I stood on the edge of that group, believing I was longing to be admitted, but actually, I never did. I was longing for somebody to say to me “it’s okay if you don’t think it’s very cool.” Because actually? I didn’t.
That cool thing? It happens among some jazz musicians here in Cape Town. And I don’t like it now any more than I liked it then. So I say it to myself today. It’s okay. I feel that small child in me, who’s still so alive, relax and say phew.
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