Torn Original

by nic 2 Comments

An Introduction to Torn

“Torn” is a song about a woman who thought she found the perfect guy but it turns out she didn’t. I’m sure many of you can relate! Anyway, she ends up “all out of faith” and “lying naked on the floor”. Considered a 90s anthem, “Torn” launched former Neighbours star Natalie Imbruglia’s singing career. In 2011, it was the most played song on Australia radio since 1990. It was also the qualifying song One Direction performed on UK X Factor in 2010. The “Torn” original was written by members of LA rock band Ednaswap back in 1993. And it was recorded three times before Imbruglia’s 1997 version.

Check out Left of the Middle by Natalie Imbruglia

Writing Torn

Members of Ednaswap, Anna Preven and Scott Cutler, wrote the original version of “Torn” with Phil Thornally (a producer who’d worked on albums by The Cure, XTC and Edwyn Collins). Preven, who was dating Cutler at the time, didn’t write the lyrics about any particular situation. However, she used her experience as a teenager working in a psychiatric hospital treating suicidal adolescents as inspiration. If you’re wondering why she got a job like that so young, it was because her dad was a psychiatrist who worked there.

In an interview with, Preven revealed what she had in mind when she originally composed “Torn”.

I was really into Joni Mitchell at the time and I really wanted to try and write something as descriptive and that had as much of a story as she seemed to be able to do. I was really trying to be Joni Mitchell basically.”

Anna Preven

Ednaswap performed “Torn” live shortly after they wrote it, but theirs is not the first recorded version.

The Torn Original Recording was in Danish!

In 1993, Danish pop singer Lis Sørensen recorded a song by the name of “Brændt” – Danish for “burned”. This was the first recorded version of “Torn”, with lyrics translated into Danish by Elisabeth Gjerluff Nielsen. As the first recorded version, we can say it’s the “Torn” original.

Sørensen, formally educated in classical music, has four decades of music industry experience. As an 11-year-old she recorded a single “Cirkushesten Claus” and while still at school formed a girl group called De Fem. With Anne Linet, she went on to form the bands Shit & Chanel (listen to the full 1976 album here) and the Anne Linet Band. Sørensen also worked with the popular Danish musician Sebastian. She has contributed to over 100 albums and released 16 of her own. These days Sørensen still performs 100 times a year.

The opening of “Brændt” sounds a little like Massive Attack but quickly settles into the familiar pop tune. Like Imbruglia, Sørensen sings into the camera in the video clip. Her voice is slightly grittier, but maybe this is because she was 41 at the time of recording, whereas Imbruglia was 22. Regardless, the tune is so familiar you hardly notice it’s sung in Danish.

Check out the Danish lyrics to “Brændt” here and an English translation here. You’ll see that Gjerluff Nielsen came up with different lyrics to those written by Ednaswap, but you’ll definitely recognise the tune.

Ednaswap’s 1995 Version

Check out Wacko Magneto by Ednaswap

The second recording of “Torn” was by the song’s writers, Ednaswap, an LA band active from 1993-1999. Lead singer Preven came up with the name after she dreamt she was in a band called Ednaswap, so terrible they were booed off stage. Ednaswap’s sound evolved from the post-grunge of their 1995 self-titled debut album Ednaswap, to the harder rock of 1996 EP Chicken and 1997 album Wacko Magneto, to the more melodic pop-rock on their 1998 album Wonderland Park. As the writers of “Torn” it can be argued that Ednaswap’s version is the original, even if it’s not the first recorded version.

“Torn” features on both Ednaswap and the wider-released Wacko Magneto (with several remixes). The song underwent multiple incantations when Ednaswap recorded it for their debut album, becoming darker with each version. The song released on Ednaswap is definitely more rock than pop, featuring more guitars and drums than Imbruglia’s cover. Preven sings really well, conveying the same pathos as Imbruglia, but sounding rockier.

A second version of “Torn” was released on Wacko Magneto in 1997. This recording is harder and more stripped back. For the first half of the song, it’s just Preven’s voice and an electric guitar, then the drums kick in.

These days, Preven and Culter own the music publishing company, Pulse. In 2007, they co-wrote Beyonce’s song “Listen” for the Dream Girls soundtrack.

Trine Rein’s 1996 Version

Trine Rein is a singer who was born in San Francisco and moved to Norway as a baby. Since then, she has moved between the US and Norway. She is one of a few Norwegian artists whose recorded sales have exceeded one million.

In 1993, Rein released her first solo album, Finders Keepers, which peaked at the top of the Norwegian charts for five weeks. Rein went on to win a Norwegian Grammy for Best New Artist of 1993. Due to the extensive foreign press coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Finders Keepers also became a hit in Japan. Almost two-thirds of the 600,000+ albums sales were to Japanese fans.

“Torn” was released on Rein’s 1996 album Beneath My Skin. The song has a poppier sound than the previous two versions, although Rein’s voice is still rockier than Imbruglia’s. The video clip is intriguing and for parts of it she is inexplicably leading around two white horses.

Natalie Imbruglia is Torn

Imbruglia left Australian soap opera Neighbours in 1994 and moved to London. She worked with producer Thornalley on a cover of “Torn” for her 1997 debut album Left of the Middle. It was released as the lead single from Left of the Middle and quickly became a worldwide hit, overshadowing the previous three versions.

Imbruglia’s “Torn” is quintessentially 90s pop. In the music video, which features British actor Jeremy Sheffield, Imbruglia sports a cute pixie cut, boy clothes and breaks the fourth wall to sing to us through the camera. Basically this song makes me want to run away back to the 90s. This version of “Torn” sounds better produced that the previous three versions. The other singers are good but Imbruglia seems to nail it more, her voice ranging from conversational to poignantly out of breath, still hitting each note perfectly. So what was so special about Imbruglia’s version?

Obviously, she was a pop star and had a background as an actor so she looked the part. She knew how to make a great video and the quality to her voice seemed to suit the song because the song is quite anxious, and yet her voice is quite sweet. So, I think that made it an attractive union of emotions.”

Phil Thornalley

“Torn” sold over 4 million copies worldwide, including over 1 million in the UK alone. It’s the 85th biggest selling single of all time in the UK. In October 1997, it broke the airplay record in the UK with more than 2,000 plays over six weeks. In Australia, “Torn” was played 300,500 times on the radio between 1997 and 2011, an average of 75 times a day (according to the Australian Performing Rights Association [APRA]). It’s the sixth most-streamed pre-2000 female solo song on Spotify, with 240 million streams.

Powered on my “Torn”, Left of the Middle sold 7 million copies. Imbruglia received six ARIA Awards 1998. And in 1999, she received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, but lost to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.

Ednaswap’s Thoughts on Imbruglia’s Torn

And what did the original writers of “Torn” think about Imbruglia’s success with their song?

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 until, all of a sudden, we get a call saying it’s number one in the UK. 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.”

Anna Preven

Natalie’s version was very much the version we wrote. It was just a couple beats per minute faster. And a little bit higher, I think. In the moment I thought it was little light. I love it now — when I hear it I get it. (Seeing) the video I remember thinking, ‘Oh she’s really got it made.’ She just looked cool — she had the jumper on, there was just something about the video. I got the video.”

Scott Cutler

Preven and Cutler were also pleasantly surprised by the royalties they received from Imbruglia’s cover.

There’s no doubt that Imbruglia’s “Torn” is the most successful cover of the song, but the other three versions also have something unique to contribute. When you listen to them all together, you can follow the early 90s transition from grunge to the pop sound that was to dominate the late 90s and early 2000s.

Check out more unknown originals with covers from the 90s here.

References - Lis Sørensen
Lis Sørensen
Songfacts - Torn
The band who wrote Natalie Imbruglia’s megahit Torn reveal the story behind the 90s classic
Trine Rein
Wikipedia - Ednaswap
Wikipedia - Natalie Imbruglia
Wikipedia - Torn
Wikipedia - Trine Rein
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Comments ( 2 )

  1. Chad (Andy)
    Ednaswap was a rock band from Los Angeles, United States, that existed between 1993 and 1998. Over a span of five years, the band released four major label records on East West, Elektra Records and Island Records. However there was an older line up of the Ednaswap band back in 1980's.This is when the song Torn was written. "As I remember it the lead singer with Ednaswap, had a job at a local American hospice as a nurse, before she started to sing with the other members of the band.....Her name was Edna and she was a mental Health nurse living in L.A. She still lives there now but no longer works as a nurse! My first wife Tina Braybrook (Aka Tina Kerti) was receiving treatment at the same hospital in between acting parts in London and American film sets. She got to chatting to my first wife and in some way this inspired her to start to sing. The Already Torn song revolves around a conversation , about life, that the Ednaswap lead singer had with Tina, my wife, when Tina was under going mental health therapy at the hospice that she was working in.. It is good that the inspiration for the song came! However , as with many people suffering mental health issues, my first wife wasn't making complete sense and wasn't telling the whole truth in her conversation all of those years back at the hospice.. The nurse who was the first singer in Ednaswap in the 1980's did not carry on with the band and was later replaced. The band stopped when the nurse left; then reformed later with a new lead singer ready for the 1990's. So the original writer of "Torn" disappeared back into working life in Los Angeles whereas the Ednaswap band went on to later produce albums with the song on. Great song though!... Who cares what inspired Ednaswap to write it when they did so at the end of the day... (" Illusion never changed into something real" should give you an indication of the kind of chat that my wife Tina had with her at the hospital before the song was put to music all of those many many years ago.....time flies and Tina has a different first name and doesn't do acting much anymore...all in the past). The band Ednaswap had already existed , with a different lead singer, before the new line up that started to release albums in 1993. A number of people have assumed, over the years, that Anne Preven was something to do with the writing of this song as second lead singer of Ednaswap. In fact she played on this fact at a music industry interview in London. She didn't write it. I was there when the first lead singer of the band wrote it because I visited my wife in Los Angeles and met the nurse who wrote it at the hospice where my wife was being treated. The problem was that the nurse who wrote "Torn", "which is just the things that my wife said set to music all those years back in Los Angeles Hospice in the1980's", was an employee of the hospice company that Anne Preven's father controlled. Accordingly Anne wanted her to stop writing music and wanted her to disappear back in to the working masses! End of! I never especially liked Anne and I never will all that much. If ever I have to sit in a restaurant, or bar, with Anne Preven and collegaues, she always does the same thing! She calls me by her nickname for me which was always Andy Pandy back then when we were sitting around in Los Angeles. "Andy Pandy" is a British children's television series that premiered on BBC TV in summer 1950...;) What we can say is that the song "Torn" is an Ednaswap song but that is was written in the 1980's before Anne Preven was anything to do with the song. Also that Ednaswap have never had copyright rights to the song because the original nurse/band member who penned the words left and ceased to be in the music industry. Natalie Imbruglia, from Australia, later did a cover version of this song but the original was written in a hospice, in Los Angeles, where my first wife was receiving mental health therapy. It was the nurse who treated my wife who went on to write and sing "Torn" as the band Ednaswap. It is just my wife's words during a conversation at the hospice set to music. "I was there in Los Angeles, USA, visiting my wife when the song was written!" While in America I also went to see their stage performances so I saw them all both on stage and off stage as well. No big deal! I appeared on stage with Ednaswap in the mid 1980's in Los Angeles, USA. This was the original band and not the 1990's line up. I did a comedy take appearing in a pretend drunk state and throwing dollar notes at the audience in pretend annoyance which they reacted to by grabbing for the money. I also did an improvised spoken nonsense rhyme rap called "The Adols" Adols are an imaginary condition in life that all should profess to want! ;) ( in other words a joke improvised on the spot) . Because I got the rhyme , and rhythm, right some in the audience actually started to dance to the microphone poem/rap the Adols! I didn't however want to be a member of the band as I was only there for a while. The Adols has no musical backing and is just a rap style to get the beat that gets them dancing. I don't know whether there are still any recordings of the Nonsense stuff the Adols. Anne Preven would know that. I do however know that after I did the improvised version, on stage, a recorded version was later released using a different vocalist. So Whilst I wasn't on it a recording was eventually made and released to the public later on. Whether this still exists now I wouldn't know though. Tina, my first wife, was standing behind the curtain , to one side of the stage, and handed me the beer bottles and money to throw about while I did the Adols rap. The last time I heard from Ednaswap was in the 1990's , from the new line up of the band just before they released the album Wacko Magneto, when they were designing the sleeve cover for the album. Wacko Magneto was finally produced around 1996/1997. I got a phone call from Los Angeles to my home number in the UK when the album cover was first being designed. They were all excited about the graphics for the new album cover. A concept album embodying Hippy-esque graphics into an imagery that had to be part of the new modern "Grunge" style music movement of the time as well! As well as other band members Anne Preven stayed in touch until the 1990's as well. She was still phoning me up in the UK! Same problem! I practically had to tell them all to "get lost" because I was just too busy and had a bigger need to generate money than go travelling over to the USA again at that time. I was trying to get qualifications to do a RICS surveying graduate course in East London, being sent abroad to do casual plain clothes military armed SIS / Mi6 work including kidnap release, and trying to hold together what little money I had as some sort of fiscal juggling act. Anne Preven always had a little secret that she does from time to time. If she ever doesn't get her way, or things don't go her way in life, she makes a little whimpering noise, just as a joke, like a puppy dog. It usually lightens up any bad feeling! I've heard her doing it on the telephone and also whilst sitting with her, and the others, in a restaurant in Los Angeles. As a final note; the lyrics to the song Torn which takes the words of my wife while she was in a mental health hospice in Los Angeles, use the lyric line "the prefect sky is torn". I want to elucidate what she was talking about. By the time of the Ednaswap song called Torn, by the original line up of Edna - Swap in the 1980's, I was both into original hippy bands and also New age culture and music as a 1960's guy. In fact the reference to "the Perfect Sky" is a reference to what I always later used to say about John Lennon lyrics in one of his latter day songs in which he says "For the Other Half of the Sky!" The reference to the "perfect Sky" is a reference to the split of all things between Yin and Yang or masculine and feminine gender objects and energies. The lyric line "perfect sky is torn" means that the whole thing is off and "no longer" as far as my first wife Tina was concerned with her problems. Andrew Siddle ----------------------------
    • nic
      Wow, thanks for sharing this story, Andrew! Now the background of "Torn" is even more interesting :)

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