Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Chris Bertolet
Last Update: 2015-01-27
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 debut. It seems unlikely that there are any hidden or allegorical meanings in the lyrics to this song, which Trey penned with Dave Abrahams while sitting around a fountain at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School in NJ. The tune then was summarily shelved, and didn’t appear live until years later.
”Runaway Jim” 8/11/93 Grand Rapids, MI
“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 60-plus minutes, 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