Going to California
|"Going to California"|
|Song by Led Zeppelin from the album Led Zeppelin IV|
|Released||8 November 1971|
|Recorded||December 1970 – March 1971|
|Led Zeppelin IV track listing|
The song's wistful folk-style sound, with Robert Plant on lead vocals, acoustic guitar by Jimmy Page and mandolin by John Paul Jones, contrasts with the heavy electric-amplified rock on four of the album's other tracks. Page's guitar is in double drop D tuning: DADGBD.
The song is reportedly about Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, with whom Plant and Page were both infatuated. In live performances of the song, Plant would often say the name "Joni" after this stanza (which is thought to have referenced Mitchell's 1967 composition "I Had a King"):
- To find a queen without a king,
- They say she plays guitar and cries and sings.
In an interview he gave to Spin magazine in 2002, Plant stated that the song "might be a bit embarrassing at times lyrically, but it did sum up a period of my life when I was 22." In a 2007 interview with the same magazine, Plant stated that the song was about "Me reflecting on the first years of the group, when I was only about... 20, and was struggling to find myself in the midst of all the craziness of California and the band and the groupies..."
This song started out as a song about Californian earthquakes and when Jimmy Page, audio engineer Andy Johns and band manager Peter Grant travelled to Los Angeles to mix the album, they coincidentally experienced a minor earthquake. At this point it was known as "Guide to California".
At Led Zeppelin concerts the band performed this song during their acoustic sets, first playing it on their Spring 1971 tour of the United Kingdom. One live version, from Led Zeppelin's performance at Earls Court in 1975, is featured on disc 2 of the Led Zeppelin DVD and again on the Mothership DVD.
It was performed on Plant's solo tours during 1988/1989 and at the Knebworth Silver Clef show in 1990. He played it again on his Mighty ReArranger tour, with additions of a double bass and a synthesizer.
A different version of this song is featured on the second disc of the remastered 2CD deluxe edition of Led Zeppelin IV. This version, known as "Going To California (Mandolin/Guitar Mix)", is an instrumental recorded on January 29, 1971, at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Headley Grange with engineer Andy Johns. This mix runs 3:34, while the original version runs 3:32.
In popular culture
The song is featured in the series finale of Entourage where it was played throughout the show's final moments and in the post credits scene.
- Lewis, Dave (2004) The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9
- Welch, Chris (1998) Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song, ISBN 1-56025-818-7