[Editor's note: Why This Song Sucks determines why particular tracks blow using science. It appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday.]
Song: The Eagles' “Hotel California”
History: Everything. Rolling Stone said this. Guitarist said this. My dad said this. Your dad said that. Everyone knows it's the worst, but somehow some people still think it's the best.
Atmospherics: Smoky mysticism and windswept guitars and drunk uncle charm.
Scientific Analysis: The assumed brilliance of “Hotel California” was actually unintentionally unraveled by Don Henley in a 2009 interview with a music critic in Cleveland, over the “So I called up the captain, “Please bring me my wine” / He said, “We haven't had that spirit here since 1969'” line.
Everyone knows wines aren't spirits because wines are fermented and spirits are distilled. So the critic was all like, “In yo' face, hoe. Watchagotnow?” Henley's retort:
“[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.”
Translation: “Oh fuck.”Note: You'll notice there's still a slight dip in the Not Paying Attention line from the 2:30 mark of the song to the 3:15 mark. That's because that's the part of the song that my cousin Cesar can play on the guitar, and NOBODY has ever described Cesar as a genius. Unless you count the time he knocked a tackle box off a pier while we were fishing and his dad called him “a genius of fucking shit up.”
If anyone ever uses the phrases “sociopolitical statement” while trying to explain away something, it's total horseshit. It's just another of way of saying, “I have no idea how to get out of this pickle I've been caught in other than to try and confuse you with big words.” It didn't work when I tried to use it on my wife after she found porn on my computer because I'd forgotten to delete the browsing history. (“No, honey, seriously, I was reading academic journals online for this article I have to write on cultural appropriation as a form of sociopolitical statements and accidentally registered an account with Hot Asian Housemaids.”)
And if the song's cryptic lyrics can't reasonably be explained, then they aren't anything more than themselves. And that being the case, “Hotel California” is the most nonsensical fucking place on the Earth. The pieces rhyme, sure, but nothing makes immediate sense. It's like it's run by the goddamn Lorax from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax.
Oh, there's more.
(I) Dads love The Eagles.
(II) Don Henley might be kind of a dick.
(III) While the Lorax is pretty awesome at being an environmentalist, he makes a bewildering concierge.