‘life in the fast lane’ and ‘Hotel California’, by the Eagles

Of American-English origin, the phrase life in the fast lane denotes a glamorous or highly pressured lifestyle.

It refers to fast lane, meaning a traffic lane, usually that farthest from the outer edge of a motorway or dual carriageway, intended for drivers who wish to overtake slower cars.

The earliest figurative use of fast lane that I have found is from the gossip column Liz Smith, by Mary Elizabeth Smith (1923-2017), published in the Daily News (New York, N.Y.) of Wednesday 23rd June 1976; titled that day Chevy in the Fast Lane, the column began as follows:

TV is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time and yet remain lonesome. T. S. Eliot¹ said that, so don’t turn up your nose at it.
Well, anyway, “Saturday Night Live” may have made young Chevy Chase² a household word, but can this outrageous and sophomoric show that people seem to either love or hate, keep Chevy on board? The story is that the very funny writer Herb Sargent and the gifted TV producer Lorne Michaels are preparing a hot NBC pilot for a new Chevy to chase.

¹ Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965), American-born British poet, critic and playwright
² Cornelius Crane ‘Chevy’ Chase (born 1943), American actor, comedian and author

The earliest instances of the phrase than life in the fast lane that I have found are used as the title, and in the chorus, of a song by the American singer, guitarist and songwriter Joseph Fidler Walsh (born 1947), the American singer, songwriter and actor Glenn Lewis Frey (1948-2016) and the American musician, singer, songwriter and record producer Donald Hugh Henley (born 1947).

This song, recorded by the American rock band the Eagles on their 1976 studio album Hotel California, appeared as follows in the Catalog of Copyright Entries (Copyright Office, Library of Congress – Washington, D.C., 1977) for July-December 1976:

EU739066.
Life in the fast lane. w & m Joe Walsh, Don Henley & Glenn Frey. 3 p. © WB Music Corporation: 16Dec76; EU739066.
EU738284.
Life in the fast lane. w & m Joe Walsh, Don Henley & Glenn Frey. 3 p. © Long Run Music Publishing & Wow and Flutter Music Publishing; 10Dec76; EU738284.

Life in the Fast Lane (1976) – the Eagles

He was a hard-headed man he was brutally handsome
and she was terminally pretty
she held him up and he held her for ransom
in the heart of the cold, cold city
he had a nasty reputation as a cruel dude
they said he was ruthless they said he was crude
they had one thing in common they were good in bed
she’d say, faster, faster, the lights are turning red
Life in the fast lane surely make you lose your mind
life in the fast lane
Eager for action hot for the game
the coming attraction the drop of a name
they knew all the right people they took all the right pills
they threw outrageous parties they paid heavenly bills
there were lines on the mirror lines on her face
she pretended not to notice she was caught up in the race
out every evenin’ until it was light
he was too tired to make it she was too tired to fight about it
Life in the fast lane surely make you lose your mind
life in the fast lane
life in the fast lane everything all the time
life in the fast lane
Blowin’ and burnin’ blinded by thirst
they didn’t see the stop sign took a turn for the worst
she said, listen, baby, you can hear the engine ring
we’ve been up and down this highway haven’t seen a goddamn thing
he said, call the doctor, I think I’m gonna crash
the doctor say he’s coming but you gotta pay in cash
they were rushing down that freeway messed around and got lost
they didn’t care they were just dyin’ to get off
And it was life in the fast lane
surely make you lose your mind
life in the fast lane
life in the fast lane everything all the time
life in the fast lane

The second-earliest instance of life in the fast lane that I have found is from an advertisement published in The Register (Santa Ana, California) of Friday 21st January 1977:

                                                               HARD TO FIND
1974 Javelin SST, 2 dr, hdtp, loaded w-equipment, am-fm stereo, tilt whl, fac. air, immac. cond thruout, 1 owner, 19,004 actual miles. Experience life in the fast lane, $2 500 (054LWE)
THE POINT                                                                                                                      892-6634

'life in the fast lane' - The Register (Santa Ana, California) - 21 January 1977

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