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".
Always another chance out here. Even if there isn't.
If you're timid about living on the edge then just dream dreams about it.
Otherwise its your kinda place. Its certainly mine.
You can recreate yourself out here. Change your name. Choose your family. Go wild. Go wilder.
It can be a beautiful death-trip. Sex drugs rock-n-roll. Fast-lane stuff.
Or even a "normal" nuclear-family-oriented church-going GOP-voting flag-waving 2-chickens in every garage kinda life, if you call that living. You have to be a practiced bourgeois to enjoy that road.
Some try burning the dynamite at both ends. Sometimes it works.
Have patience. Give it time.
Going To California
Spent my days with a woman unkind,
Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine.
Made up my mind to make a new start,
Going To California with an aching in my heart.
Someone told me there's a girl out there
with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.
Took my chances on a big jet plane,
never let them tell you that they're all the same.
The sea was red and the sky was grey,
wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today.
The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake
as the children of the sun began to awake.
Seems that the wrath of the Gods
Got a punch on the nose and it started to flow;
I think I might be sinking.
Throw me a line if I reach it in time
I'll meet you up there where the path
Runs straight and high.
To find a queen without a king,
They say she plays guitar and cries and sings... la la la
Ride a white mare in the footsteps of dawn
Tryin' to find a woman who's never, never, never been born.
Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,
Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.
--song written by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
The March 1969 footage of Led Zeppelin performing Live on a Danish TV show.
The band, shot in black & white, is working its way with a four song set before a small studio audience. Vintage stuff from a young bunch of outstanding musicians out to prove themselves.
And they do!
Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
Writers: Anne Bredon, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant.