a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

Runaway Jim

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Abrahams

Vocals: Trey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)

Albums: New Year's Eve 1995 - Live at Madison Square Garden, At the Roxy, Live Phish 06, Live Phish 20, Walnut Creek, Sharin' in the Groove, Star Lake 98, The Clifford Ball

Debut: 1990-03-28

Historian: Chris Bertolet

Last Update: 2013-12-20

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

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Recommended Versions: 1993-08-26, 1995-06-16, 1995-12-31, 1997-07-31, 1997-11-29, 1998-08-11, 1999-07-18, 2000-07-03, 2003-12-31, 2012-08-31, 2013-08-04

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d21cohen Reply
I'm surprised the version from 8.11.98 Star Lake isn't mentioned on the recommended list. Fans of the exploratory Jims must add this one to their list. Opened the second set of a throwdown dank show, Jim runs away to an etheral space mixing jazz, latin drum rythms, and funkiness, and for some reason finds himself in Washington Heights at the end. Phish took Jim to Manhattan's Upper West Side to quote "Maria" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (a musical which Page allegedly wanted to cover). In my opinion the resulting piece of music is beautiful.
Score: 4
andrewrose Reply
andrewrose I concur with d21cohen. The 8-11-98 Runaway Jim is about 35 minutes and mind-melting. And I'm not talking one of those "this is a long aimless jam for the sake of being long" jams, I'm talking inspired other-worldly greatness. How it's omitted here is anyone's guess; I'd venture to say it's the best version they've ever done. They even bring it back to the Jim finale after taking way out into outer space. This history needs revising!
Score: 1
nichobert Reply
nichobert The Worcester Jim is the single most underrated jam of all time. Depite its mindbending length, it remains a shockingly cohesive journey into Phish's genetic code. Weaving through multiple disparate themes with style and panache, the Runaway J(a)m is the antithesis of so many other historically long Phish jams which seem to collapse under their own weight. Eminently musical and shockingly captivating throughout the entire journey, it is a shame that it remains so divisive to this day. When Jim ran away, we always wondered where he went. This version provides the answer. The spirit of Runaway Jim stirs inside the tyrant shaman, atop a mountain of bones, fur and gristle that was once Worcester, Massachusets. Gleaming with the blood and fat of the conquered, one rheumy eye tracks the fabric of reality as his former master tears it asunder.
Score: 1
tberman333 Reply
tberman333 "He ran away again on the day he died, I knew I'd be with him on the other side".
Score: 0
PageSideRageSide8979 Reply
At the Roxy Runaway Jim needs to be mentioned here, in my opinion best one i've ever heard the band is young and taking shots and Trey absolutely shreds the solo like no other. Need to find more of these great '93 gems
Score: 0
DriedupGoliath Reply
DriedupGoliath Although Jim hasn't jammed all that much in 3.0 (and 2.0 for that matter, save for NYE 2003), the Bethel (5-28-11) version should definitely be mentioned in the song history and jamming chart. The middle bass/drums section of this version is the best in the song's history...a cool little jam in the middle of an otherwise normal Jim. When Trey comes out of the Plinko with that signature, heroic lick, and then crashes into the hard rock return to the's knee-buckling.
Score: 0
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