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The Eagles’ Don Felder Thought ‘Hotel California’ Would Flop

Don Felder
Jana Birchum, Getty Images

Artists are rarely the best judges of their own material. How many times have we cringed when a classic group we love releases a new album they claim is among their best ever? And how often are we privileged to hear outtakes that cause us to smack our heads, in disbelief that they were left off the original record?

The latest case in point is Don Felder of the Eagles. In a new interview, Felder discloses that he didn’t think their 1976 epic ‘Hotel California’ had the potential to be a hit single. “[I]n the ’70s, everything had to be three, three and a half minutes long,” he told MusicRadar. “The intro had to be under 30 seconds, so the disc jockeys didn’t talk too long before the singing started. It either had to be a rock ‘n’ roll danceable song or a drippy ballad.”

Still, Felder said that Don Henley insisted on releasing the song as the second single from the album of the same name. Even though, or maybe because, it defied all conventions for a single, the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in May 1977. It recently came in at No. 20 on our list of the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs. Its success bewildered Felder, who said, “I’ve never been so delighted to have been wrong in my whole life.”

The rest of the interview features Felder discussing the history of the song, from his writing of the music, to working on the lyrics with Don Henley and Glenn Frey and recording the song’s legendary outro guitar solo with Joe Walsh.

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