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Eric Carmen's "Run Away," revisited


LC

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I hadn't listened to "Run Away" in a long time, but on a recent late-night dog walk under the stars in my quiet neighborhood, it got shuffle-played in front of me. It really makes an impact in the darkness of the night. And it still demands close listening, all these years later.

It's eight minutes long, which is maybe why I haven't listened to it much in recent years. (Or maybe it's my obsession with John Stewart's brilliant catalog.) Either way, it was fun to catch up with "Run Away" again. Like seeing an old friend.

I remember getting Boats Against the Current  in 1977. A couple weeks before college, after that album's long, long, long delay, I finally had it in my hot little hands.

And I remember this very well: The first and last songs on the LP were the two that instantly grabbed me.

It didn't take long to love the six songs in between, for sure. But at my very first audition of the album, "Boats" killed me for its poetic, perfect craftsmanship — and "Run Away" killed me for its drama, power, and, again, perfect craftsmanship.

After it ended, I just sat there in silence for a few minutes and thought, "Whew!" It's a long-form power ballad, a story that I could tell (even as a 17-year-old) was autobiographical. "Run Away" is Eric being startlingly honest.

I understand that "Run Away" is maybe too over-the-top for some — too dramatic or too intense. But the intensity, I find, is incredibly cool. The lyrics are poetic, opening a window into Eric's teen angst. Remember, he later told us he intended "Run Away" as the first song on Boats Against the Current, as the start of his own story within his only "concept album."  Follow the album as it is from back to front, and it really does tell a story.

The opening to this song is such a grabber, with that subtle piano melody followed by a descriptive and imagistic line (oh, those golden high school dreams!): 

She was just an average blue-eyed golden high school dream,
An illusion nothing real could ever touch.
Funny, love seemed so much more intense at 17,
When I knew she'd never love me half as much

I recall the desperate vow I made.
I must find a way somehow to win her heart.
I've got to make her mine.

I'm gonna run away 'til I prove that I'm a man
Gonna run away, be the best I know I can
Got to run away, got to find my space and time
And I cannot rest a day until I make her mine.

Eric's writing is so good in this song, as the next verse—my favorite within—reminds me:   

Trades were made for promises of a timeless memory,
And I knew but still refused to comprehend
That the fantasy more glamorous than she could ever be
Was the course of least resistance in the end.

I recall the desperate vow I made.
I must find a way somehow to win her heart.
I've got to make her mine.

I'm gonna run away 'til I prove that I'm a man
Gonna run away, be the best I know I can
Got to run away, got to find my space and time
And I cannot rest a day until I make her mine.

And on it goes, with strong lyrics getting even stronger. I love this last verse, too—it's pure poetry. That line about the winter taking its toll... going to college in the great Northeast, that one always connected. The spring has gone and will not come again? Now that's dark.

Long ago an innocence lived deep within my soul
In a yesterday where love and dreams remain.
But disillusion clouds my eyes and the winter takes its toll
For the spring has gone and will not come again

I recall the desperate vow I made.
I must find a way somehow to win her heart.
I've got to make her mine.

Gonna run away 'till I prove that I'm a man
Gonna run away, be the best I know I can
Got to run away, got to find my space and time
And I cannot rest a day until I make her mine.

The killer piano playing, the constant building up of the production, that long tag with pounding piano trading off with ringing guitar solos and soaring strings — again, whew! This is truly a tour de force.

So... when you have eight minutes to really detach from life and fully soak in "Run Away" again, do it. It's not for passive, distracted listening, is it?

 

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 A couple of observations: Eric nearly always lists Run Away as one of his favorite songs, and I can see why. I can also see why Clive didn't want to lead off the album with this song. If someone went into a listening booth to see if they wanted to purchase the album, Run Away, at over 8 minutes, would be too long to capture a casual listeners interest. On a production note, there's always been a, for lack of a better term, American Indian feel in the bass and drum line, accented by the piano and string arrangement. I like it, and I don't intentionally listen for it, yet it strikes me every time I hear the song. It's probably never going to crack my Eric Top 10 but I really like it!

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Unlike his first solo album, which had a very noticeable improvement in the mix on Essential, the differences on Boats are more subtle, no doubt because Eric produced the album himself. The Essential Run Away is a little cleaner and has a bit more punch. 

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Thanks for a thread on Eric's music once again LC, and so eloquently described.  I so appreciate an evaluation of his music and lyrics. We know of his genius song writing and piano playing with his ballads. But his lyric writing is very unique isn't it? I find a very noticeable difference when Eric doesn't write his own lyrics. It doesn't fit together quite the same way. I love this song.. the music and the lyrics and 8 minutes isn't too long for me.

Kirk, thanks for all of your musical insights. I will have to give another listen to check for that American Indian feel. I agree Kirk, it's a lot cleaner sounding on the Essential album. Thanks for the review.

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Don't forgot about the thread I've linked below, in which our friend Bernie lays a piano demo of "Run Away" on us — along with rare demos of "Nowhere to Hide" and "She Remembered." If you're not an EC.com supporter, those demos alone make it worth whatever you can afford to donate. 

Eric's demo was pretty darned clean — and really close to the final version.

 

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