Leave Me Alone, Natalie Imbruglia

Leave Me Alone was one of my earliest successes as a songwriter and producer – on reflection a really big success – and it arrived out of the blue in many ways.

Back in the mid nineteen-nineties, I was working out of a studio I rented in Kilburn Lane. As a songwriter/producer I was sent all kinds of prospects from both my publisher and my management, projects that included newly-signed artists from record labels as well as film projects and commercials for TV.

RCA Records had a new signing they wanted to send over to do some writing – a girl with the exotic sounding name of Natalie Imbruglia. I’d never heard of her, but her name made her seem intriguing. And friends told me she was an actress in Australian soap ‘Neighbours’ which I’d never watched. In any case, I said send her over and let’s see what we can do.

She came along and we wrote a song together called All Over Me, and we hit it off straight away.

As it went well, we scheduled another writing day – but in the meantime I’d been approached by a company who were looking to make a film about American surf-rock guitarist Dick Dale – who pioneered a really unique style of playing which has since gone on to be sampled by many – the Black Eyed Peas among others. Back then he was not well known outside of surf-rock aficionados – and I was sent the film script and various tracks of his to check out.

The morning Natalie came in for our second writing session, I’d been checking out Dick Dale tracks, pressed for time as I often was, and his style of playing was lodged in the back of my head as I sat down with Natalie to begin our session.

We wrote Leave Me Alone in just a couple of hours – lyrics and all, with just some really nice string chords, a loopy beat, and I incorporated Dick Dale’s guitar style as a theme into the track, just based on what I’d been listening to that morning. It was very stylised – I’d also been working with Massive Attack and was into that kind of trip-hop sound. I worked that into it, as you can hear on the finished track.

The record label decided to commission full recordings of both the tracks. So we booked Mayfair Studios – and I decided I wanted to use an orchestra. I commissioned the late, great David Whitaker (who wrote the original ‘The Last Time’ for the Rolling Stones, later used as a sample for Bittersweet Symphony) as conductor arranger. He was wonderful, old-school through and through; writing his arrangements onto paper, charming everybody who met him. I worked with him as often as I could during my career. I also used Geoff Holroyde on drums for the first time – he’s since become my go-to session drummer and remains that to this day. And then I was watching MTV one night, and Natalie was there on screen singing ‘Torn.’

Nobody knew it, but Torn was just about to become the most played track on radio in the world at the time.

As soon as it hit so incredibly big the way it did, the label went full speed ahead to get the album ‘Left of the Middle’ out, and Leave Me Alone was chosen as one of its twelve tracks.

The album was a global hit, selling in excess of 10 million copies, reaching no 5 in the UK, as well as no 10 in the states.

A big bonus, too, was that Leave Me Alone was among the best received of all the songs on the album from a critical perspective – for a young songwriter/producer it was an especially helpful turn of events.

Natalie subsequently left London for LA as the whole thing took off – and so didn’t work again with anybody who’d worked on that first album. But a really nice postscript was that I met her at a charity event recently – and we had a great time reminiscing about Leave Me Alone and that period of success in general. And we agreed to get together and write the song we’d been meaning to write all those years ago.

We’ve done that now, and so have a song together in contention for her next record.