Like Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale, the lyrics to The Eagles’ Hotel California has baffled fans for years. One thing that has never been in doubt is the song’s distinct reggae feel.
Hotel California was originally released by The Eagles in 1977 for their album of the same name. Last month, Big Mountain covered the song for Freedom, their upcoming album.
It was recorded at Anchor studios in Kingston, with drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Chris Meredith, keyboardist Robbie Lyn, saxophonist Dean Fraser, and Earl “Chinna” Smith who played guitar, including the song’s famous intro.
Quino McWhinney, guitarist and lead vocalist for Big Mountain, told the Jamaica Observer that, “Chinna had the toughest job by far”.
McWhinney added that, “He had to find a way to capture the essence of the amazing guitar work in the original Hotel California but, of course, without the 70s style, overproduced bravado. The kids today don’t dig that. But they love the song. Chinna’s guitar work had to be great but it had to humble, mysterious, sacred… he had to reinvent the song without disturbing the soul of the original song. As you can see, that’s exactly what he did.”
Smith, reggae’s most prolific guitarist, has played on countless hit songs by Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, and Lauryn Hill.
Guitarist Don Felder, credited as co-writer of Hotel California, played the savoured Latin acoustic intro to Hotel California. It is as revered as other rock opening lines, such as Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.