It’s The 20th Anniversary Of Australia’s Biggest Ever Pop Song
And yes, it is a cover.
In mid 1997, Natalie Imbruglia was in London, diligently working on her debut album, Left Of The Middle.
She was working with songwriter and producer Phil Thornalley, who was best known at the time for producing The Cure’s 1982 album Pornography. They had already written and recorded a bunch of songs for the album, but on this particular day in the studio Thornalley suggested trying out a cover.
The song was called ‘Torn’, and it had been written four years earlier by Thornalley alongside LA writers Anne Preven and Scott Cutler. It was released by Cutler and Preven’s band Ednaswap in 1995, and also covered by popular Danish artist Lis Sørensen — but the song’s overall success was pretty limited.
Preven and Cutler didn’t think much of Imbruglia’s cover at first: “We didn’t think anything of Natalie’s version — (we thought) it’s just another European cover. And we really didn’t give it another thought,” Preven told News Corp earlier this year.
Cutler agreed: “Honestly, I didn’t love it.”
Which just goes to show that even veteran songwriters and producers can get it wildly wrong sometimes. Upon its release on October 27, 1997, Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ shot to #1 on the UK charts and ended up shifting over 4 million units — over 1 million in the UK alone, a staggering number for a debut single.
“All of a sudden, we get a call saying it’s number one in the UK,” Preven said. “For Scott and I it was obviously a mixed bag. We were thrilled to have a hit. But it was also bittersweet because it wasn’t our band.”
Back at home, the song catapulted Imbruglia to a level of pop fame not seen outside of her former Neighbours colleague Kylie Minogue. ‘Torn’ reached #2 on the ARIA charts — spending a total of 20 weeks in the ranking — and Left Of The Middle ended up at #1 when it was released in November.
Imbruglia cleaned up at the 1998 ARIAs, winning awards for Single Of The Year, Breakthrough Artist Of The Year, Female Artist Of The Year, and more. As of 2011, ‘Torn’ holds the record for being the most played song on Australian radio since 1990, have been spun over 300,500 times.
The accompanying music video was equally — if not a smidge more — as iconic. You can see it in your head even now: Imbruglia spinning in a room, blue-grey hoodie slung low around her elbows, the room gradually being dismantled around her. I hate to say this…but only ’90s kids would remember it.
Imbruglia would go on to release four more bestselling albums, but none would touch the runaway success of Left Of The Middle and ‘Torn’. Twenty years on, it’s still our most beloved pop song.
Happy anniversary, ‘Torn’.