You just can’t kill the beast

Friday - - Humour -

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.

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