Did a Jethro Tull Song Influence The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California?
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Just a few days ago, Don Henley very publicly lashed out against uncleared reworkings of his songs, including R&B star Frank Ocean‘s sample of ‘Hotel California.’ But is it possible that very same Eagles song was actually itself inspired by an older Jethro Tull track?
The two bands shared an uncomfortable concert tour together in the early ’70s, according to Tull leader Ian Anderson’s recollection in an interview with Songfacts. “We didn’t interact with them very much because they were countrified, laid back, polite rock,” he said, “and we were a bit wacky and English and doing weird stuff. I don’t think they liked us, and we didn’t much like them. There was no communication, really, at all. Just a polite observance of each other’s space when it came to sound checks and show time.”
Still, that must have been where the Eagles first heard ‘We Used To Know,’ a featured song from Tull’s 1969 album ‘Stand Up’ — and a track that Anderson said bears an unmistakable resemblance to one of the Eagles’ best-known subsequent hits. “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,” Anderson adds.
Similarities do, in fact, exist in the chord structure, as well as the lead vocal melody. Both songs also fade out with a musical jam of sorts. (At least one well-done mashup makes the connection clearer.) There are, however, marked differences in tempo. Jethro Tull takes things noticeably slower.
“It’s just the same chord sequence,” Anderson says. “It’s in a different time signature, different key, different context. And it’s a very, very fine song that they wrote, so I can’t feel anything other than a sense of happiness for their sake. And I feel flattered that they came across that chord sequence. But it’s difficult to find a chord sequence that hasn’t been used, and hasn’t been the focus of lots of pieces of music.”
As such, the diplomatic Anderson says he holds no ill will toward the Eagles. “There’s certainly no bitterness or any sense of plagiarism attached to my view on it,” he says, “although I do sometimes allude, in a joking way, to accepting it as a kind of tribute.”
Both Ocean and Austin indie band Okkervill River have come under fire for unauthorized usage of Henley songs. Ocean affixed the music from ‘Hotel California’ to a new rap, while Okkervil River covered Henley’s solo hit ‘The End of the Innocence’ as a free download on their website.
“You just can’t do that,” Henley told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “You can call it a tribute or whatever you want to call it, but it’s against the law. That’s a problem with some of the younger generation, they don’t understand the concept of intellectual property and copyright.”