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
Writer(s) Dave Pirner
Producer(s) Michael Beinhorn
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Soul Asylum singles chronology
"Black Gold"
"Runaway Train"
"Sexual Healing"

"Runaway Train" is a power ballad about depression by American rock band Soul Asylum.[2] 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 Singles Chart.[3] It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and sold 600,000 copies in the United States.[4][5] 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 begins with a fade to a black screen with big, white blocked text reading: "There are over one million youth lost on the streets of America", whereas the UK version begins with "100,000 youth are lost on the streets of Britain". Next shown is a drawing of a girl, and a Dave Pirner 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, after which she is picked up by paramedics, having been raped and beaten. During the coda of the song, a 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.[6] Depending on what country the video was being broadcast, they would show children from that area who are missing.

Resolved cases[edit]

According to Kaye, 26 missing children were found after being featured in the video.[7] 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.” [8]

  • 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.[9][10]
  • 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.[11]
  • 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]
  • 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 Byron Page, Wilda Benoit, Christopher Kerze, Martha Dunn & Andrea Durham [1]

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).

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[15] and English rockband, Smokie. It was also covered by the British pop band Busted on their 2004 double A-side "Thunderbirds/3am"

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Runaway train"   4:25
2. "Black gold - Live"   3:56
3. "Never really been - Live"   3:12

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ Strong, M. C. (1995). The Great Rock Discography. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd. p. 761. ISBN 0-86241-385-0. 
  2. ^ "Wrong Way On A One-Way Track: The Oral History Of Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train' - SPIN". July 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Allmusic: Soul Asylum Discography (Awards)". Allmusic. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  4. ^ "American certifications – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". Recording Industry Association of America. 
  5. ^ "Best-Selling Records of 1993". Billboard. BPI Communications. 106 (3): 73. January 15, 1994. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  6. ^ Katz, Frances (July 23, 1993), "Rock video reaches out to runaways", Boston Herald, Features, 36.
  7. ^ "Wrong Way On A One-Way Track: The Oral History Of Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train' - SPIN". July 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ Back On Track, Pasadena Weekly, July 13, 2006
  9. ^ Second body is missing girl Dinah, BBC News, November 16, 2007
  10. ^ Man accused of teenager's murder, BBC News, September 1, 2007
  11. ^ "Curtis Huntzinger's mother wins wrongful death lawsuit". 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Have you seen this child? THOMAS GIBSON". 
  14. ^ Good, Meaghan Elizabeth. "The Charley Project: Thomas Dean Gibson". 
  15. ^ "Brent Smith & Zach Myers release Acoustic Covers EP". Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  16. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  17. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  18. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  19. ^ Canadian peak
  20. ^ Pennanen, Timo. Sisältää hitin: levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972. Otava Publishing Company Ltd, 2003. ISBN 951-1-21053-X
  21. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train" (in French). Les classement single.
  22. ^ " – Soul Asylum Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  23. ^ "Irish Singles Chart – Search for song". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Soul Asylum search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  25. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". Top 40 Singles.
  26. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". VG-lista.
  27. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". Singles Top 100.
  28. ^ " – Soul Asylum – Runaway Train". Swiss Singles Chart.
  29. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1993". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 

External links[edit]