It was 36 years ago today (January 15th, 1977), that the Eagles' album Hotel California hit Number One. The album, which was released on December 8th, 1976, was the group's third chart-topper in a row, following 1975's One Of These Nights and 1976's compilation Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975.
Hotel California included two Number One hits featuring the group's main songwriters and distinctive lead vocalists, with guitarist Glenn Frey taking the lead on "New Kid In Town," and drummer Don Henley singing the album's famous title track. The album's third single, "Life In The Fast Lane," just missed the Top Ten, peaking at Number 11 in the spring of 1977.
Hotel California featured the addition of former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh, who joined shortly after co-founder Bernie Leadon's departure. It turned out to be the only Eagles album featuring the lineup of Henley, Frey, Walsh, guitarist Don Felder, and co-founder and bassist Randy Meisner.
The album's themes reflected the state of America through the decaying Los Angeles rock scene, which by the mid-'70s had changed from an earnest singer-songwriter community into a far more decadent lifestyle fueled by celebrity, money, and drugs.
In their original review of the album, Rolling Stone commented on Hotel California's music and its reflection of its creators by saying, "Hotel California showcases both the best and worst tendencies of Los Angeles-situation rock. . . Its lyrics present a convincing and unflattering portrait of the milieu itself."
Years later Henley reflected on the album, telling Billboard, "Every band has their peak. That was ours."
Henley explained what it was about the Eagles' music that registered so deeply with their fans: "I think a lot of it has to do with timing. I think these songs came along at a time in people's lives when they were becoming adults, or, y'know, going through a certain period in their life, their lives. And, y'know, there's a cliche about songs being 'the soundtrack' to people's lives and things like that, but I would imagine that there are a lot of different reasons for that and we don't have a clue."
Songwriter J.D. Souther recalls co-writing "Victim Of Love" with Henley, Frey and Don Felder: "I came in late on that one. They had the track done. That was Don Felder's track, I think. And that was one of those -- they were in Florida at Criteria (Studios) cutting the album, and it was 'J.D., get down here (laughs), we've got a couple of songs that aren't finished. That happened a couple of times. That happened on that album and The Long Run album. But I think at that time we finished 'New Kid In Town' and we wrote the lyrics to 'Victim Of Love'
Hotel California went on to top the charts for eight nonconsecutive weeks, and to date has sold over 16 million copies. Over the years, the Eagles have included most of the Hotel California album in their concert setlists, including such classic album tracks as "Wasted Time," "Victim Of Love," "and "Pretty Maids All In A Row."