Bringing them to my current blog: all of my ‘Calling Out of Context’ articles for MOG

Posted on 09.02.2012

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Back when I used to be a writer for MOG, I had a weekly column called ‘Calling Out of Context’, in which I’d explain and discuss obscure lyrics from popular songs. A few friends have asked me to put them on the blog, so I’m doing that. Each week or so I’ll post another one here, until I get through them.

Here’s the Pilot episode: Hotel California

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Each week, MOG’s gc offers in-depth explanations to obscure lyrical references submitted by non-English speakers. In her inaugural column, she dives into the work of Lebowski-abhorred outfit the Eagles.

Hotel California: What’s a Colitas?! How do they smell warm, and where can I order one? – Sam

You’re referring to the Eagles’ Hotel California, right? Right.

Here’s the lyric in its natural habitat:
“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair,
warm smell of colitas rising up through the air…”

My dad is a HUGE Eagles fan. Huge. The biggest Eagles fan I know.

And he’s kind of a big guy, too. If you can imagine a guy in his mid-50’s sporting tinted aviator glasses; a handlebar mustache; a Route 66 t-shirt and about 9 tattoos depicting various animals and one very strategically placed ‘Bite Me’ (post divorce, of course); then yeah, that’s my dad. A member of the American Van Movement of the 70’s. A big, intimidating, Italian ball of harmless. And he changes tires whenever his 20-something daughters call. For serious.

My dad’s been ALL ABOUT THE EAGLES since the beginning of time: 28 years. As far back as I remember, dad was in the la-z-boy (or the conversion van, when I was RULL young) with some HUGE headphones on, rocking the Eagles. One time I got the grand idea (I was 5) to help dad by changing the record on the player. That record was Hotel California, and I’ve been paying for it ever since. I’ve purchased that Hotel California album, re-release, cassette, retrospective, VIDEO RELEASE (how many more times can they possibly release this album!?) ever since.

I always thought the line was ‘warm smell of carnitas…’. Being from a suburb and all, the only truly western/Mexican experience I have EVER had has been in a Chili’s restaurant or when I used to make occasional late-night runs-to-the-border since Taco Bell was the only place that was open. Carnitas was a common word; why wouldn’t that be what Don Henley was talking about, right?

Well, it turns out that there was a LOT more than a van movement going on in the 70’s. Per an email response to The Straight Dope in or around 1997 on this exact subject, an Eagles manager states that “in 1976, during the writing of the song ‘Hotel California’ by Messrs. Henley and Frey, the word `colitas’ was translated for them by their Mexican-American road manager as ‘little buds.'”.

Little buds. Buds. What do you think that means? Take your time. Let yourself get used to the idea of Don Henley smoking a joint with that long-haired freaky people band of his.

This might kill my father if I tell him… If he doesn’t already know. If he wasn’t in on it from like, day one and all of that ‘don’t do drugs’ crap he told me was a lie. A LIE!!!!!

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