Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2016-03-08
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.
”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.