"Runaway Train" as written by and David Pirner....
Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning

So tired that I couldn't even sleep
So many secrets I couldn't keep
Promised myself I wouldn't weep
One more promise I couldn't keep

It seems no one can help me now
I'm in too deep
There's no way out
This time I have really led myself astray

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here nor there

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

Everything is cut and dry
Day and night, earth and sky
Somehow I just don't believe it

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here nor there

Bought a ticket for a runaway train
Like a madman laughin' at the rain
Little out of touch, little insane
Just easier than dealing with the pain

Runaway train never comin' back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I'm neither here nor there

Runaway train never comin' back
Runaway train tearin' up the track
Runaway train burnin' in my veins
Runaway but it always seems the same


Lyrics submitted by brokenheartkit

"Runaway Train" as written by David Anthony Pirner David Pirner

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Runaway Train song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentThis is the way I hear it..

    Engulfed in depression, Seeing no way out of the hurt, endless nightmares of feeling unloved, unneeded, untouched,. Everything going wrong in his life, going the wrong way on a one way track to his own hell..Finding himself becoming a crazy loonitic who finds his only source of help, his freind who is there for him, who listens to him and try to help himout.. Though his freind realizes just how deep he is in his own mind.

    A good song to listen to when you feel you have no way out of the downward spiral you are going down in your life.
    This song is on my top ten.
    Rob_98443on February 08, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General CommentSad factoid that I just read at Wikipedia: while the video found a lot of children in a number of countries, many of the outcomes often weren't good. Some runaways were returned to abusive or otherwise unhealthy home situations, several were eventually found after being killed. I wish the video made it clearer that MOST kidnappers, just like most child-molesters/killers, are closely related or a friend of the family.

    I think that most parents & then-teens in my area that saw the video back in the day were uncomfortably reminded of two horrible tragedies that happened not long before hand. First there was 3 little sisters that were found at the city dumps with their throats slashed by their own father, and months of everyone wondering how the critically injured survivor would do... Then, not long before the video, Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her own 13th birthday party sleepover -- it seemed to take forever before they finally discovered she'd been murdered. Even though I didn't know any of the girls and was in my mid-teens, I remember crying at the video, having learned what really happened to most "missing" kids.

    Anyway... The songwriter/singer has said bluntly that it's not about missing kids -- it IS about severe depression, evidently in his case after a loved one died suddenly.

    I don't think that it has to involve drugs, either. I've had major depressive disorder before, and when it's bad enough, illegal drugs aren't needed to have the feelings he describes. People with depression do all kinds of things on an obsessive scale to escape -- having s*x with anyone willing, playing video games all day, sleeping too much, etc. -- and at some point they do know that it's "insane" to the point of self-destructive, but the pain is so intense that it's the only way to avoid suicide. They can also become almost manic with energy or rage, and it causes an electric, vibrating sensation that really is kind of like "fire in my veins".

    But every time they come back out of the obsession or fake-manic state, they find the depression & all of the things it has made them hate about their life "always stays the same". They start to see that it's getting harder and harder to actually escape it -- and that their behavior has been "tearing up the tracks" to return to their old life, just as the depression itself has done to their personality. They'll try to rely on a loved one, but then be too easily hurt/angered by everything, so the person seems like a blowtorch rather than either the lock-opener or candle lighting the darkness.

    I could go on, but won't. ;) I'll just share, to end on an upbeat note, that this song helps me focus when working on a few urban fantasy novellas I've been writing for ages, as it captures the secret feelings the protagonists 'inherited' from my years as an avoidant, neglected/mistreated non-angsty teenager. Strange how a sad song or tale can bring joy to a person...
    XyzzyMagicaton July 13, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI like how song lyrics can mean different things to different individuals . . . I suppose no one really knows exactly what was originally intended, yet we can all connect to it in our own ways. I'm inclined to agree with the second theory posted, yet the first can work too. Though actually, it reads a lot like my life now . . . sad, really, but a great song
    zencicadaon May 21, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentAs someone who's lived through depression I can say that I related to this song completely. It's one of those songs that feel so true that you feel like you could have wrote it. One of my favorite songs of all time and my theme song, really.
    smurfjkelleron May 27, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentGreat song. Perhaps about depression or running away from one's troubles, perhaps through self-destructive habits, reaching that point of no return, or just feeling like you don't have control of your life.
    xmakesherflyxon March 07, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is talking about two people who care about each other a lot. At the same time they are both good and bad for each other. They have lost faith in themselves and each other and there is nothing left to do but leave and it hurts like hell.
    snypsyon February 07, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbought a ticket for a runaway train
    like a madman laughing at the rain
    little out of touch, little insane
    it's just easier than dealing with the pain

    Without a doubt, these are my favorite lines of any song I've ever heard. As far as meaning, I think his buying a ticket for a runaway train represents his lack of meaning and control in his life. I always imagine it as though he knows that he knows he has no reason or purpose for which to live, but he 'buys a ticket' for it anyways--that is to say he tries to ignore his inescapable depression and ennuie in order to continue on living ("it's just easier than dealing with the pain").

    Also, although he is talking to another person asking for help in finding meaning and happiness in his life, I don't really think that he genuinely believes this person can retrieve him from his depression. I'm sure that this is just because I am filtering the meaning of this song through my own personal outlook on life and love, but I think that this person he is talking to serves not as a means of escape, but mainly as a counterpoint of love and hope against which he can juxtapose his own hopelessness ("firefly without a light" vs. "blowtorch burning"). While I certainly think that other interpretations are equally valid, it is this personal, subjective interpretation that has made this song so special to me.
    fiver452on October 06, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti'd subscribe to the second theory of the mesnings of the song..

    to me the lyrics say that you have problems, but taking the easy way to deal with the pain will just put you back in the same situation or worse.

    "seems like i should be getting somewhere
    somehow i'm neither here nor there "

    Iceon May 10, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti also agree with the depression element of the song, how on earth did i get so jaded, lifes mystery seemed so faded. great line. amazing song i remember having to sing this song back in chorus in like 7th grade and i had no idea what it meant, i envision a runaway train.
    LiveUrLifeon May 14, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdoes anybody remember the video? It has all those missing kids in it. yeah, when i was younger i used to watch it and try to see if i could recognize any of them. . .

    i think this song is great. it's pretty self-explanatory
    cantankerouson June 03, 2002   Link

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