Runaway Jim

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Music/LyricsAnastasio/Abrahams
VocalsTrey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Phish Debut1990-03-28
Last Played2019-07-13
Current Gap4
HistorianChris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update2019-03-14

History

This whimsical yarn about a dog who has cleverly managed to split with the narrator’s car, clothes, and money has been a staple of Phish’s repertoire since its 3/28/90 debut. It seems unlikely that there are any hidden or allegorical meanings in the song’s lyrics, which Trey penned with Dave Abrahams while sitting around a fountain at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. The tune then was summarily shelved, and didn’t appear live until years later.

Every version of "Runaway Jim" from its debut through the Wendell Studios sessions recording contained an extra verse in which Jim's death is explained:

Ran away again on the night he died,
But I knew I'd be with him on the other side.

When Phish emerged from the studio, "Jim" was nowhere to be found – but when he resurfaced 26 shows later on 10/1/90, the extra verse was gone and "Jim" stayed in regular setlist rotation for the next decade.

”Runaway Jim” – 7/22/97, Raleigh, NC

“Runaway Jim’s” ebb-and-flow jams are unpredictable sonic journeys, alternately textural and colorful, melodious one night and darkly dissonant the next. The first extended “Jim” was played in Albany on 5/5/93, but it was the 6/16/95 Raleigh version – 29 minutes, with a segue into “Free” – that first took the song to truly experimental spaces. The undisputed heavyweight champion of all “Jims” unfolded at the Worcester Centrum on 11/29/97. This monster clocked in at just under an hour, morphed from moody free jazz to funk, and climaxed in a full-blown “Weekapaug” jam. Though some hard-core fans laud this “Jim” as the finest improvisation Phish has ever laid down, still a few others are critical of its occasionally indulgent wanderings. For those who don’t mind a little indulgent wandering, it’s a must-hear.

Segue fanatics should check out the abbreviated 7/22/97 Raleigh version, which drops seamlessly into “My Soul” by way of a “Superstition” quote from Page. Other favorite “Jims” include 12/31/95 (anchors a spectacular set), 8/7/96 (complete with “Gypsy Queen” tease), 7/31/97 (mesmerizing), 8/13/97 (brief, but incendiary), 7/3/00 (groovy and experimental), 8/31/12 (thematic, elastic, tidal), and 8/4/13 (eerily interstellar, then heavily terrestrial). Be sure to check out the Gordon Stone Trio's take on "Runaway Jim" on Mockingbird’s Sharin’ in the Groove CD.

”Energy” > ”Runaway Jim” – 8/4/13 San Francisco, CA. Video by LazyLightning55a.

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