So last night I was trying to explain to Surrogate frontman Chris Keene over some cans of Schlitz the part in the Eagles’ “Hotel California” where , if you play it backwards, it talks about Satan organizing his own religion and about how on the inside cover of the LP, Anton Lavey can be seen kicking back looking all satanic and shit. But his dubiousness made me doubt my conviction on this matter. After all, my original research on this matter was conducted in the pre-internet dark ages, sitting in my bedroom, stoned off my fucking ass, playing my dad’s LP backwards on my turntable with my finger and tripping out hella. But that was, 10, maybe 11 years ago. Maybe I had just made it all up. So I made it my quest, my mission for the day, to get to the bottom of this shit for once and for all, or at least for once.
First off, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just making it all up like I have a habit of doing sometimes. Thankfully some French dude was cool enough to put up a YouTube clip of the part of the song that played backwards talks a bunch of dark shit. It’s in the second verse,where Don Henley sings “There were voices down that corridor/I thought I heard them say.” Played backwards, this part says, rather clearly (at least for backward shit) “Satan, oh he came, and organized his own religion / Yeah when he knows he shouldn’t” I mean, whether or not this is just an aural coincidence or not was still to be determined, but no one can say that it’s not a little bit creepy, than randomly some words backwards sound a lot like a meaningful sentence, and not just a meaningful sentence, but a sentence about some super satanic ass shit?
Next I needed to determine if the face in the crowd on the inside gatefold of the record was indeed good ol’ Anton or just some other random. I figured the logical first step to this would be to find the actual image online and look at it again for good measure (since my copy of the record is still in Dad’s closet where I originally found it way back when). Strangely enough, the best I could find is a distant blurry shot on someone’s eBay auction. Apparently the group shot only appeared in the original vinyl artwork, and not on subsequent CD versions. So you’ll just have to take my word for it (or got get a copy of the record) that in the windows in the top left is a super creepy dude kind of peering out of the shadows, which many people believe is Anton Lavey himself. Eagle’s guitarist Joe Walsh, however, has denied this saying:
Absolutely not. Any reference to Satan or anything like that is completely in the eyes of whoever is thinking that. That’s a reflection of how sick they are. The guy in the window is one of the Elektra/Asylum publicity guys. The lighting just happened to be bad and he was really shy, so he was just peeking around the corner.
Which would seem pretty open and shut, one would think. However, the guy who actually shot the photo, John Kosh who was Art Director for the album had this to say about the photo:
Kosh eagerly confirms that there is a mysterious figure on the balcony, visible only on the LP version. “I assume he’s a friendly spirit, because we got the picture and it worked!” says Kosh, laughing. “If he is of the spirit world — which I doubt — he’s benign, so it’s fine by me.”
Overall, the band has repeatedly and adamantly denied any dark overtones to the song, documented pretty extensively here. But of course, if I was still getting paid out major dough in royalties and licenses on a song I’d hesitate to confirm its satanic subject matter too. All I’m saying is this is some weird shit. For more fun with backwards shit about Satan in rock songs, check out this site.