Going to California

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"Going to California"
Song by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin IV
Released 8 November 1971 (1971-11-08)
Recorded Headley Grange, Headley, England, 1971
Genre Folk[1][2]
Length 3:36
Label Atlantic Records
Songwriter(s) Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer(s) Jimmy Page

"Going to California" is a ballad written and performed by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was released from the band's untitled fourth album in 1971.

In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked "Going to California" number 11 on their list of the 40 greatest Led Zeppelin songs of all time.[3]


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 five of the album's other tracks. Page's guitar is in the DADGBD tuning.

The song is reportedly about Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, with whom Plant was 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 1968 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."[4] 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... "[citation needed]

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 Led Zeppelin IV, they coincidentally experienced a minor earthquake.[5] At this point it was known as "Guide to California".[5]

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.[5] 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.

Other versions[edit]

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, with 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[edit]

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.


Cover versions[edit]


  • 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


  1. ^ "Going to California" at AllMusic
  2. ^ Philip Bashe (1 January 1985). Heavy Metal Thunder: The Music, Its History, Its Heroes. Doubleday. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-385-19797-7. 
  3. ^ "'Going to California' (1971) - The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  4. ^ Chuck Klosterman, "Not a Whole Lotta Love", Spin, September 2002.
  5. ^ a b c Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.

External links[edit]