Runaway Train (Soul Asylum song)

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"Runaway Train"
Single by Soul Asylum
from the album Grave Dancers Union
Released June 1, 1993[1]
Format LP, Cassette, CD
Recorded 1992
Genre Alternative rock
Length 4:26
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Dave Pirner
Producer(s) Michael Beinhorn
Soul Asylum singles chronology
"Black Gold"
"Runaway Train"
"Sexual Healing"

"Black Gold"
"Runaway Train"
"Sexual Healing"

"Runaway Train" is a power ballad[2] about children that ran away by American rock band Soul Asylum. It was released in June 1993 as the fourth single from their 1992 album, Grave Dancers Union and became a success around the world. In mid 1993, it reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100, number two on the U.S. Top 40 mainstream and climbed to the top position on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and sold 600,000 copies in the United States. Worldwide, the song was highly successful, reaching number two in New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, and peaking within the top five of several other European countries. The song helped bring their album, Grave Dancers Union, to a multi-platinum level and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1994.

Music video[edit]

The music video, directed by Tony Kaye, received heavy airplay on MTV and VH1 during its duration.

Several versions of the video were made. The video for the United States version begins with a fade to a black screen with a big, white blocked text reading: "There are over one million youth lost on the streets of America", while the UK version begins with "100,000 youth are lost on the streets of Britain". The next scene shows a drawing of an adolescence girl, and a Dave Pirner's voice-over says that the drawing is by a girl who had run away more than 110 times. The scene was often omitted when the video was shown, a common practice when videos had additional footage before or after the song.

After Pirner spoke, the video continued with various shots of the band playing the song, and Dave singing. Three concrete scenes are shown interspersed among the other images of the video. During the first verse, a child is shown witnessing his grandfather beating, and eventually killing his grandmother, and running from their house in fear. During the second verse, a young teenage girl is pimped as a prostitute, and is initially purchased by the aforementioned abuser. Later, she is dragged into a van by a gang, afterwards she is picked up by paramedics and taken to the hospital, after getting beaten up. During the coda of the song, a small baby is snatched from his stroller by an older woman, with his mother running after the kidnapper's car.

Throughout the music video, various images of children running, or appearing with injuries from abuse, are shown. During the choruses, pictures of missing children would appear on the screen. After each picture was shown, their full name would appear in large capital letters on the screen, along with the year they had been "missing since...".

After the video, in an ending also not regularly shown, Pirner says in front of the camera, "If you've seen one of these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number," with the following screen showing a number one could contact. MTV cut this part out because they did not want to have the video confused with being a public service announcement. VH1 shows the UK version in its full length.

There were three original versions of the video in the United States, totaling 36 missing children shown.[3] The children shown varied with the location of the broadcast, using missing children from that area.

Resolved cases[edit]

According to Kaye, 26 missing children were found after being featured in the video.[4] In 2006, guitarist Dan Murphy stated in an interview with Pasadena Weekly that some of the cases featured in the video had ended in tragedy: "Some weren't the best scenarios. I met a fireman on the East Coast whose daughter was in the end of the video, and he'd been in a bitter custody battle with his wife over her", Murphy said. "It turned out the girl hadn't run away, but was killed and buried in her backyard by her mother. Then on tour, another girl told us laughingly 'You ruined my life' because she saw herself on the video at her boyfriend’s house and it led her being forced back into a bad home situation."[5]

The UK version of the video featured Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol, who each went missing in 1991. Their remains were found in 2007 at a house in Margate. Peter Tobin has since been convicted of both murders.[6][7]

Also featured in the UK version was Mark Bartley, a runaway who went missing in 1992. He was recognised in the video by a man who knew Bartley was staying in the tenant's house below them, but was unaware of his missing status. By the time the police arrived, Bartley and the man he was living with were gone. It is unknown what happened to him after this.

Curtis Huntzinger, who was featured in the US video, was located deceased in 2008. His convicted killer, Stephen Daniel Hash, is currently serving a sentence of 11 years for manslaughter in Folsom State Prison.[8]

The last image in all three U.S. versions of the song is Thomas Dean Gibson, who disappeared from Glendale, Oregon, in 1991 at the age of 2.[9] He is still missing as of 2014, and age-progressed photos of him at age 19 and age 21 were released in 2009 and 2012, respectively, by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.[10] His father, Larry Gibson, a former deputy sheriff, was convicted of second degree manslaughter for accidentally shooting his son to death when he shot at a stray cat in his front yard even though no remains were ever found. He steadfastly denies killing his son and has worked on finding him since being released from prison in 1996.[11]

The version shown in Australia showed a number of young backpacking tourists whose families were looking for them. Several of them turned out to be victims of Ivan Milat, the Backpacker Murderer.

Also featured in the video, but still missing in 2016 were Christopher Kerze, Martha Dunn, Andrea Durham, Wilda Benoit and Byron Eric Page.

Other uses[edit]

In 2016, Jack Hanft used the song in the 2016 disaster film The Runaway Train, for the credit sequence and a music video (featured on the DVD).

Track listing[edit]

1."Runaway Train"4:25
2."Black Gold – Live"3:56
3."Never Really Been – Live"3:12

Charts and certifications[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"Runaway Train" was covered by Brent Smith and Zach Myers of American hard rock band Shinedown on their 2014 (Acoustic Sessions) EP[46] and English rockband, Smokie. It was also covered by the British pop band Busted on their 2004 double A-side "Thunderbirds / 3AM". Dee from it's always sunny in Philadelphia covered the song in the episode the gang hits the road.


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  2. ^ "Wrong Way On A One-Way Track: The Oral History Of Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train' - SPIN". July 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ Katz, Frances (July 23, 1993), "Rock video reaches out to runaways", Boston Herald, Features, 36.
  4. ^ "Wrong Way On A One-Way Track: The Oral History Of Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train' - SPIN". July 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ Back On Track Archived December 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Pasadena Weekly, July 13, 2006
  6. ^ Second body is missing girl Dinah, BBC News, November 16, 2007
  7. ^ Man accused of teenager's murder, BBC News, September 1, 2007
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External links[edit]