California

Album: Blue (1971)
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Mitchell sings of going home to her beloved California. She sings as though she's been on a long journey - and indeed, she has. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash, Mitchell hoofed her way across Europe. It was during that journey when Mitchell penned many of the songs on her Blue album.
  • This song, and many of the songs on this album, were inspired by the jazz style of the great Miles Davis.
  • Canadian-born Mitchell is a longtime resident of Southern California, inhabiting digs in Laurel Canyon, among other locations in and around Los Angeles, for most of her professional life.
  • Blue is admittedly Mitchell's most searingly personal album, considering her situation and lifestyle choices at the time. She's always been an artist who allows her audience to live her life vicariously through her music, and in no case is that more evident than on this album.
  • Winning Mitchell the highest placement ever for a female artist on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Rolling Stone ranked this album #30.
  • The album itself has won many distinctions, as has Ms. Mitchell. This song, however, was not singled out for any special award.
  • Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are huge Joni Mitchell fans. The Led Zeppelin song "Going To California" is influenced by this track.

Comments: 4

  • Mark from TallahasseeI'm with Tanya here. While both albums came out in '71, Mitchell wrote "California" a year earlier (around May/June '70) on her recently-acquired dulcimer (bought Sept. '69), right after leaving Greece for France, and first played it live in July '70. She then played "California" in the UK several times that Fall - live at Isle of Wight in August, recorded for a BBC "tele" program in Sept. (broadcast in October), then recorded in a radio show in October (broadcast in Dec.), then finally live again at the Royal Festival Hall in November. Zep had finished all of its '70 tours by September, and so could/would have seen her on the tv show in October, seen her live in November, and/or heard the radio show in December. If they were big fans as they claimed to be, they would have caught at least one of those performances, which dovetailed all to perfectly into their songwriting seclusion in Jan/Feb '71.
  • Ekristheh from Halath"I'll even kiss the Sunset Pig" -- The Sunset Pig may have been a nickname for an extremely unpleasant traffic officer who used to pull you over for the slightest irregularities and say nasty things, especially to women, occasionally getting violent. Officer Paul Kramer had such a reputation and may have been the Pig Joni meant. In '89, Zsa Zsa Gabor slapped him after he used foul language while issuing her a ticket for an open liquor container. Cher reports having a run-in with Kramer around the same time.

    There is also a book called "Kiss the Sunset Pig", by Canadian author Laurie Gough, about a road trip she took from Ontario to California.
  • Willie from ScottsdaleIt's a close call. Zep was already recording at Headley Grange in 1970, and both Blue and Zoso came out the same year. But both Jimmy and Robert were unabashed fans of Joni. Later in the 1970s (apocryphally) Jimmy was offered the chance to meet Joni, and was too shy to go through. :-)
  • Tanya from La Verne, CaI have a sneaky suspicion that this was THE Joni song that inspired Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". It just makes perfect sense.
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