Led Zeppelin

Going to California

Composed by Jimmy Page / Robert Plant

Song Review by

In a long line of ramblin' man songs comes one of Led Zeppelin's, a 1971 song about leaving one (bad) woman in search of a specific (good) other. This pensive folk ballad is said to be a tribute to Joni Mitchell, the "girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair," and who "plays guitar and cries and sings." Once in California, however, the narrator seems to find nothing less than the apocalypse: "The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and quake...Seems that the wrath of the Gods/Got a punch on the nose and it started to flow/I think I might be sinking," sings Plant, with a boost in the echo effect in the mix. Interestingly enough, when the band took the finished recordings out to L.A. for mixing, as they entered the airport, a pretty good-sized earthquake was shaking the area. "Going to California"'s simple instrumentation of John Paul Jones on mandolin, Jimmy Page on a Mississippi John Hurt-via-John Fahey fingerpicking acoustic guitar, and Robert Plant on vocals is a nice breather on a record full of heavy moments like "When the Levee Breaks" and "Black Dog." It was recorded spontaneously in a late-night session in a house the band had rented out for the occasion of recording their fourth record. Oddly enough, for such a straightforward pretty folk ballad, there are very few recorded cover versions. The 1980s hair metal bad Great White did a live mimic of the song, right down to the weary Plant vocal delivery, on their 1999 tribute Great Zeppelin: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Led Zeppelin IV 1971 Atlantic 3:32
No Image 1975 Ze Anonym Plattenspieler 5:02
No Image 1977 El Gato
Led Zeppelin [Box Set] 1990 Atlantic 3:32
No Image 1991 Silver Rarities 6:44
Complete Studio Recordings 1993 Atlantic / Swan Song 3:31
BBC Sessions 1997 Atlantic 3:55
Led Zeppelin [DVD Box Set] 2003 Atlantic
Mothership 2007 Rhino / Atlantic/WEA
Definitive Collection Mini LP 2008 Rhino 3:31
Complete Rock Case Studies 2009 Regeneration Music / Classic Rock Legends 3:28
The Complete BBC Sessions 2016 Atlantic / Rhino
The Complete Led Zeppelin Collection Rhino / Rhino Atlantic 3:32
blue highlight denotes editor's pick