You just can’t kill the beast
In Bengaluru, my hometown, it is said that if you stand outside a particular restaurant long enough, you will meet all your friends. Something similar was said about Times Square in New York. Likewise, as Euclid said, if parallel lines go on for long enough, they will ultimately meet. Not necessarily outside the restaurant in Bengaluru or at Times Square, but in a place called Infinity. Sounds like a tea place.
This seems to be one of the laws of nature. If you do nothing for long enough, something is bound to happen. Have you noticed, for example, that if you stay long enough at a public place or anywhere with piped music, you will hear Hotel California ?
What is it about this song from the 1970s by the Eagles that causes it to be thrust down the ears of any average group of people?
And it is not just recorded music. Even live bands always have this one – about your being able to check out any time you like but being unable to leave – as part of their repertoire.
Not Beethoven, not the Beatles, not Michael Jackson, but the Eagles have soared where no other being, man or bird has gone before. And the question is, why?
I have heard the song being played in one-horse towns in the south of India with dodgy sanitation and barely a bus shelter. What is the link with California and the tricky girls from there? Or is there a connection between Los Angeles and Mandya in Karnataka that we are unaware of, but is clear to the guy who switches on the music at a barber shop there? The question remains, why? I mean, what is the “warm smell of colitas” that seems such an integral part of the song, and what sense would that make to a Russian guitarist out to impress his listeners in Colombo?
The honest answer, of course, is, “I don’t know.” But there is something deeply unsatisfactory about that, so I
What is it about this song from the 1970s that causes it to be thrust down everyone’s ears?
will speculate. I mean, this could be heaven or this could be hell. Welcome to the explanation for the Hotel California .
It is one of those songs – Happy Birthday is another – that is truly universal, not so much for what it means or for the shared experience it suggests as for the sheer recognisability factor. Research has shown that given a choice, most people would love to live in California. The song helps them reconnect with something they were never connected with, inspiring a nostalgia for a time that didn’t exist, an aspiration for a future that never will be.
Remember that the next time you hear the song; and remember, too, that you read it here first.