It seems that every year I travel, I am asked questions about 1976 Eagles hit, HOTEL CALIFORNIA. I find it amazing that the music we listened to in the 70′s is still exciting a new generation so decided to find the answer once and for all!
Many rumors claim that HOTEL CALIFORNIA is in the town of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of Baja California, Mexico. This seemed a possibility as the Cabo San Lucas area was popular with rock stars of the 70′s. I recall being anchored next to Crosby, Stills and Nash on David Crosby’s Alden, MAYAN in the mid 70′s and, of course Keith Richards married Patti Hansen there.
On a recent trip to Baja we decided it was time to visit the town of Todos Santos and see HOTEL CALIFORNIA first hand.
We found that the Mexican hotel absolutely captures a perfect image for the song’s lyrics …
“On a dark desert highway,
cool wind in my hair…
Up ahead in the distance,
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy
and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell..”
Unfortunately, however, we learned that the HOTEL CALIFORNIA of Todos Santos is not related to the song. In fact, the song is not about a hotel at all, but rather an allegory or metaphor about loss of innocence of artists who find themselves ensnared in the “glittering web” of life in the music industry.
In a 2007 interview with 60 Minutes, composer Don Henley described HOTEL CALIFORNIA as “a song about … excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about.” It seems that Henley and the Eagles are not arguing that the American culture of decadence and wealth is a sham, but rather how easy it is to be trapped in the high life and having to deal with the dark underside of the music industry.
“And she said ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’ “ to later discover that “you can never leave!”
The Eagles themselves are living examples of the American Dream … four musicians from the Midwest arrive in California and, within five years, release the best-selling album in American history! (Now equaled only by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER).
Even though the Baja HOTEL CALIFORNIA is an urban legend, I encourage you to take time after your Sea of Cortez charter and treat yourself to a day trip on the Pacific side of Baja to Todos Santos. The drive through miles of protected cactus of the Baja desert is amazing.
After visiting some local galleries and shops, head for TEQUILA SUNRISE BAR & GRILL right across the street from HOTEL CALIFORNIA.
Be sure to try their house favorite – shrimp chiles rellenos – and one of their famous Margaritas … When you see the recipe, you will understand why you will only need one! Owner Emmanuel (“Mr. Margarita”), has won the last seven national Margarita competitions with this recipe and when you taste it you will see why! As you enjoy your lunch in the colorful cafe listening to dreamy Eagles music, you will be so glad you made the trip!
Mr. Margarita’s Award Winning Recipe:
Wet rim of glass with key lime slice (not water)
Fill glass 3/4 with chunky ice
3 oz. El Capricho tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Damiana
4 key limes (cut and use lime squeezer)
Serve with slice of key lime on rim