The Eagles song that Ian Anderson thinks was ripped from Jethro Tull

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By the middle of the 1970s, the Eagles were set to take control of the decade. They had already seen their fair share of upheaval with the retirement of founding guitarist Bernie Leadon, but they felt that the inclusion of Joe Walsh for their upcoming record would bring back some of the edge that had been lost. Nothing could have prepared Glenn Frey and Don Henley for what came out of “Hotel California,” despite the fact that they were already aiming high.

Don Felder, the guitarist, came up with the primary pattern while brainstorming while writing at his Malibu home. Henley recalled this in more detail in History of the Eagles. “The music reminded me of something between Spanish music and reggae music. That piece really jumped out at me and that’s what me and Glenn started to base everything around.”

Henley’s words vividly depict the rock and roll lifestyle, where any regular person can become a celebrity but must sell their soul in the process when combined with two victorious guitar solos. Although this was the Eagles’ only song to come close to progressive music, one of the masters of the genre was paying attention.

When Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull first heard the Eagles’ song, he believed it sounded uncannily similar to one of their songs from 1969 called “We Used to Know.” When you listen to the two songs side by side, it’s obvious that they share a similar chord pattern, but Tull’s version takes a completely different turn because to changes in time signature.

It doesn’t exactly help to know that Jethro Tull accompanied them on a few of their early tours, even if the band has insisted that the Tull tune had nothing to do with their original composition. Anderson emphasized the parallels between the two songs in a Songfacts interview, stating: “Maybe it was just something they kind of picked up on subconsciously, and introduced that chord sequence into their famous song ‘Hotel California’ sometime later.”

No of where the song originated, the Eagles’ rendition of it included allusions to other rock icons. In allusion to Steely Dan, who had already mentioned the California rockers in one of their own songs, Henley sings of mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice while the feast he attends centers on guests holding steely swords.

Most individuals in Jethro Tull’s situation would have filed a lawsuit against the band for plagiarism, but Anderson chooses to see the positive side of things and decides against doing so. Anderson asserts that everything is absolutely good when asked about his connection with the other members of the band, adding, “There’s certainly no bitterness or any sense of plagiarism attached to my view on it – although I do sometimes allude, in a joking way, to accepting it as a kind of tribute.”

Despite the fact that both songs have prog influences, the Jethro Tull rendition of the chord progression is nothing compared to what the Eagles classic stands for. Tull might have been still developing their sound at the time they produced the chord progression, but “Hotel California” served as a warning about what might happen to ambitious rock stars who let the lifestyle overtake them.

1 Comment

  1. Check out what The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have to say on this chord proression

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