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Life in the Fast Lane by Eagles
Album: Hotel CaliforniaReleased: 1976Charted:
This song describes a man and woman that had everything but lost it because of their lifestyle. Hotel California was the Eagles first album with their new guitarist Joe Walsh, who helped write this song with Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
In a 1981 interview with the BBC, Frey explained: "Life In The Fast Lane' kind of expressed the stereotyped LA 'run around in your Porsche' 24 hour boogie mode that unfortunately is too true for a lot of people. It wasn't really a statement about the guys in the band, or about anybody in particular – just it's kind of disturbing to see the extremes that the bourgeois jet set will involve themselves in. For instance, disco almost turned into a lifestyle, and it's such a non-meaningful thing on which to base one's life."
When reminded that his Eagles bandmates may have exhibited some symptoms described in this song, Walsh replied: "Yeah, that's probably true, and I think it was healthy, though, that we realized that running around and parties and fast cars are really not the answer – it's kind of a shallow way to approach why we're on this planet, and it probably came as a band consciousness."
After this song came out, the phrase "Life in the fast lane" became a popular saying used to describe a jet-set lifestyle. It remains a fairly misinterpreted track, as it's not supposed to glamorize the lifestyle, but to be a warning about the dangers of drugs ("Lines on the mirror, lines on her face" describe cocaine on a mirror about to be ingested), alcohol and bad decisions. The Eagles formed in Los Angeles, where many people get caught up in a lifestyle of excess, a topic they take on in "Hotel California
The famous guitar riff for this song started off as a warm-up exercise Joe Walsh was doing before a rehearsal. When the band heard it, they made him play it again and decided to develop it into a song.
Walsh replaced original Eagle Bernie Leadon when he joined them for this album. In addition to his guitar work and writing contributions on this song, Walsh also composed the track "Pretty Maids All In A Row
Once the song "Hotel California" was written, a loose theme developed for the album. Don Felder, who played guitar for the Eagles at the time, told us: "Once you arrive in LA and you have your first couple of hits, you become the 'New Kid In Town
,' and then with greater success, you live 'Life in the Fast Lane,' and you start wondering if all that time you've spent in the bars was just 'Wasted Time
.' So all of these other song ideas kind of came out of that concept once the foundation was laid for 'Hotel California.'" (Here's our full Don Felder interview
Glenn Frey reminisced in the 2013 film History Of The Eagles: The Story Of An American Band: "I was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a drug dealer on the way to a poker game. The next thing I know we're doing 90. Holding! Big-Time! I say 'Hey man!' He grins and goes 'Life in the fast lane!' I thought, 'Now there's a song title."'
This song was rumored to be about Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. They were a couple who broke up when they became famous, although Lindsey was not physically abusive to Stevie. Nicks dated Henley after she broke up with Buckingham.