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HOTEL CALIFORNIA
The Eagles
Elektra/Asylum, 1976
Designers: John Kosh and Don Henley
Photographer: David Alexander

aded glory, loss of innocence and decadence," says Don Henley, describing the feeling he sought for the cover of Hotel California. "I was trying to use California as the microcosm for the rest of the nation."

Henley, Glenn Frey and manager Irving Azoff brought the concept to John Kosh, who had previously designed LPs for Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and James Taylor. Kosh had heard only a rough mix of the album when he and David Alexander went to shoot the sun sinking behind the elegant Beverly Hills Hotel. To clear the trees surrounding the hotel, they had to clamber aboard a sixty-foot cherry picker and dangle precariously over the rush-hour traffic on Sunset Boulevard.

"I don't remember ever being so scared in my life," says Kosh. "The thing sort of swayed alarmingly every time we moved." In the space of a few minutes, they alternated shooting roll after roll of film -- as Alexander ducked to reload his camera, Kosh used his back as a tripod and kept shooting. "We just weren't quite sure precisely what time the sun and the lights coming on in the hotel would balance and make that magic we were after," says Kosh.

The inner gatefold -- a quirky gathering of the Eagles' friends, employees and other business associates in the run-down lobby of the old Lido Hotel, in Hollywood -- vividly captures Henley's image of California as the greatest melting pot in the country. "I wanted a collection of people from all walks of life," he says. "It's people on the edge, on the fringes of society."

A swirl of rumors greeted the album cover, which cost $60,000, once it hit the stores -- including stories that there were supernatural or satanic references buried in the lyrics and in the artwork. Kosh scoffs at those reports but 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."

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