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The Originals: 1990s & 2000s



The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that The Originals are running monthly now. This month we cover the 1990s and 2000s. My stash of lesser-known originals from that era is limited; so much so that I’m adding a few bonus tracks to exhaust those decades.


It’s Oh So Quiet
Bjork showed just how madcap crazy she is on the big band pastiche It’s Oh So Quiet. But the song was actually a cover of actress Betty Hutton‘s 1951 English version of the song, titled Blow A Fuse. It is no less maniacal than Bjork’s 1995 cover, right down to the frantic screams.

It’s fair to say that back in the day Hutton was a bit of a cook in her own right; her goofy performance in the musical Annie Get Your Gun (with which you apparently can’t get a man) testifies to a certain lack of restraint which is very much on exhibition on Bjork’cover.

Blow A Fuse itself was a cover of a 1948 German number by Austrian jazz musician Horst Winter, who knew it as Und jetzt ist es still (And now it’s quiet). It is included here as a bonus track.

When Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn had its long run in the upper reaches of the British and US charts in 1997, word was that the song was a cover of the Norwegian hit by Trine Rein. The truth is that it wasn’t even the first cover, or even the first Scandinavian version.

The song’s journey to hit-dom is a little complicated. The song was written by Ednaswap members Anne Preven and Scott Cutler in 1993. The same year it was recorded in Danish by Lis Sørensen as Brændt (“Burnt’) but by Ednaswap only in 1995. Still, those who overplayed the Norwegian angle aren’t entire wrong though: Imbruglia’s cover is a straight copy of Rein’s version, right down to the guitar solo.

Ednaswap were a not very successful ’90s grunge band, who came by their name when singer Anne Preven had a nightmare about fronting a group by that name being booed off the stage. Well, with a name like that… Preven has become a songwriter, receiving an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song Listen from  Dreamgirls.


I Swear & I Can Love You Like That
Before it was a worldwide mega-hit for soul crooners All-4-One, I Swear was a country song. In late 1993, singer John Michael Montgomery issued I Swear as a single. It did very well in the country charts and won the 1995 Grammy for Best Country Song, but reached only #42 in the Billboard charts.

Later in 1994, producer David Foster took the song, written by written by Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers, to the soul boy band All-4-One, who topped the charts in many countries with it.

They repeated the trick a year later when All-4-One had a huge hit with I Can Love You Like That—also originally recorded earlier that year by John Michael Montgomery (his version of that is included as a bonus track). Here I think the All-4-One version is better than the pedestrian origi

Nothing Compares To U

It’s well-known that Sinead O’Connor’s mega hit of 1990 was written by Prince, for his funk side project The Family. Released in 1985, the song made no impact. Oddly, Prince recorded it as well but never released it on record, though he regularly sang it in concert.

O’Connor tells a story that Prince summoned her to Paisley Park around the time she had her debut hit with his song to berate her for using bad language in interviews, provoking a confrontation that culminated in a physical fight. Just a “Thank you for writing my hit” might have been the better response.


You Raise Me Up

The rather cloying, hymn-like You Raise Me Up became famous in the 2003 version by Josh Groban and later by the dreaded Westlife. In its original form it was released by Norwegian new-agey outfit Secret Garden, whose members had written it, with vocals by Northern Irish singer Brian Kennedy. He performed it at the 2005 funeral for football legend George Best, and hit a UK hit with it.

Secret Garden, who had won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 for Norway with the near-instrumental Nocturne, were sued last year by Icelandic composer Jóhann Helgason who claims that his 1977 song Söknuður was plagiarised.

Make You Feel My Love

One could argue, with some justification, that the original of Make You Feel My Love is the 1997 version by Billy Joel, rather than that of the song’s writer, Bob Dylan. Joel released his recording of it a month before Dylan’s came out. But Dylan’s was the first to be recorded, so here I’ll give him the nod (I have a playlist of other first-recordings-released-later in my collection which might become another mix).

Billy Joel deservedly had little success with his single (included here as a bonus track), but Make You Feel My Love became a big hit first for Garth Brooks in 1998 and a decade after that for Adele.


Am I The Same Girl

Soul singer Barbara Acklin must have been very pleased when her husband Eugene Record, future soul legend as leader of The Chi-Lites, gave her a song he had co-written with arranger Sammy Sanders. Acklin duly recorded Am I The Same Girl, a catchy number with a great hook which had hit written all over it. And it became a hit — minus Acklin’s voice. Producer Carl Davis took the backing track, added a piano solo and released it as Soulful Strut by Young-Holt Unlimited (though Eldee Young and Red Holt are not believed to have played on the track). Released in November 1968, it became a million-seller. Acklin’s version was issued in February 1969, to little notice.

Soulful Strut was frequently covered and later liberally sampled. Am I the Same Girl was covered by Dusty Springfield, who had a minor hit with it in 1969. It was her version that inspired the 1992 Swing Out Sisters cover, which later became famous in the US as a theme for Martha Stewart’s show.

Round Here
Before the Counting Crows, there were The Himalayans. That was the band which singer Adam Duritz fronted in the early 1990s. And it was with fellow Himalayans that he co-wrote Round Here, which was the second single off Counting Crows’ 1993 debut album August and Everything After.

Don’t Know Why
Don’t Know Why is the song that made Norah Jones an instant star in 2002, winning her a Grammy. The song was given to her by songwriter Jesse Harris, who contributed four other songs to Jones’ debut album.

Harris had recorded Don’t Know Why with his band The Fernandinos in 1998. His version sounds more like the alt.country band Bright Eyes than the smooth jazz of Norah Jones. And, sure enough, Harris went on to play guitar on Bright Eyes’ superb 2005 album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.


When You Say Nothing At All
The regrettable Ronan Keating scored a huge worldwide hit in 1999 with When You Say Nothing At All, his first single outside Irish boy band Boyzone, on the back of the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts rom-com Notting Hill (Julia Roberts is said to have cried when she first heard the song, no doubt overcome by Keating’s herculean soulfulness).

It’s not as mediocre a song as Keating and his terrible arrangement would make us believe. In the beginning, it was a quite excellent country #1 for Keith Whitley. Whitley was on the cusp of country superstardom when he died in on 9 May 1989 at the age of 33, one of the many musicians to fall the victim to the bottle.

When You Say Nothing At All was written by Paul Overberg and Don Schlitz, both prolific songwriters and occasional recording artists (Schlitz recorded the first version of the Kenny Rodgers hit The Gambler, which he also wrote).

Alison Krauss, once a child prodigy, recorded When You Say Nothing At All for a Whitley tribute album. Her lovely version was so popular that it was released as a single, providing the bluegrass singer with her first hit, reaching #2 on the country charts. And yet, this lovely song is known as a Ronan Keating number. Where’s justice?

Who Let The Dogs Out?

A repeat contender for Worst Song of the 2000s”, Who Let The Dogs Out was originally a man-bashing song (the “dogs” in the title are misogynist men) titled Doggied, written for Trinidad & Tobago’s carnival season 1998 by musician Anslem Douglas.

It was first covered by English radio personality Jonathan King, before his conviction for sexual abuse of teenage boys, as Fat Jakk and his Pack of Pets. His version was picked up by the manager of the Bahamian dance band Baha Boys, who recorded it only very reluctantly. The Baha Boys clearly were men of discernment but awful commercial judgment: the song was a big hit and earned them a Grammy, which is always a guarantee of unimpeachable quality.

Who Let The Dogs Out was a huge hit everywhere except in the US. But even that nation eventually succumbed to its dubious charms: Who Let The Dogs Out has become part of US culture thanks to its use at sporting events. Meanwhile Anslem Douglas was sued for having plagiarised the chorus from Canadian radio jingle writers. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.


From A Distance
Julie Gold was a secretary at HBO while she was writing songs on the side. Gold had pitched one song she had written to various record companies and artists, but nobody picked it up. Through a mutual friend she got that sing, From A Distance, to folk-country singer Nanci Griffith, with a request that the singer might point out what exactly was wrong with the song to merit its serial rejection. Griffith found nothing wrong with it. On the contrary, she recorded it for her 1987 album Lone Star State of Mind.

From A Distance, a rather mawkish number, became a mega-hit in 1990 in the version by Bette Midler. Opinion on the song is rather divided: it sold by the shedloads and won the Grammy for Song of the Year (as I said, always the seal of quality). On the other hand, it resides comfortably on most lists of “Worst Ballad of the 1990s”. Personally, I don’t like it much.

She’s The One
In his cover of She’s The One, Robbie Williams hardly bothered to interpret the original by World Party; his vocals follow the template of the first version faithfully, almost as if he has no powers of interpretation. Those vocals which Williams karaoked were put down by former Waterboys member and multi-instrumentalist Karl Wallinger, for whom World Party is practically a solo project.

Wallinger wrote the song, and won an Ivor Novello Award for it in 1997. But he had no commercial success with the World Party recording of it. That came with Robbie Williams’ inferior 1998 cover which topped the UK charts.


Ain’t That Just The Way

Twenty years before the unusually named Lutricia McNeal had a European hit with Ain’t That Just The Way, it was recorded by the girlfriend of Playboy honcho Hugh Hefner, Barbi Benton. Hefner and Benton became a couple, for seven years, after the then 18-year-old pretended to be his girlfriend in episodes of the Playboy After Dark TV series in 1968.

Born Barbara Klein (the more Playboy-friendly name was suggested by Hefner, of course) in New York and growing up in California, Benton was primarily an actress, appearing in a few unsuccessful movies as well as in the TV show Hee Haw. Between 1978 and ’81, she had three cameos playing three different characters on the Love Boat. In the meantime, she recorded six albums (including a live set) between 1974 and 1988, scoring a country chart top 5 hit in 1975 with Brass Buckles. She also appeared several times in Playboy, making it to the cover in July 1969, March 1970, May 1972 and October 1985 — but never as a Playmate.

Benton first released Ain’t That Just The Way, which she co-wrote with film composer Stu Philips, as a single in 1976, possibly for the TV series McCloud, which Philips scored. Benton re-recorded a slowed-down version of the song, produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, for her 1978 album of the same title. The version featured here is the 1976 single.

Ain’t That Just The Way song was covered in 1977 by Dutch singer Patricia Paay, retitled Poor Jeremy. Two decades later, American R&B singer McNeal had a big hit throughout Europe with her version, restored to its original title, reaching #5 in Britain and the top 10 in every European chart, as well as topping the Billboard Dance charts. In a bit of a twist, McNeal posed in the German edition of Hefner’s Playboy magazine in 2004.

CD-R length. Home shell-suited covers included. PW in comments.

1. Barbara Acklin – Am I The Same Girl (1968)
The Usurper: Swing Out Sister (1992)

2. Lis Sørensen – Brændt (1993)
The Usurper: Natalie Imbruglia (as Torn, 1997)

3. The Family – Nothing Compares 2 U (1985)
The Usurper: Sinead O’Connor (1990)

4. Nanci Griffith – From A Distance (1988)
The Usurper: Bette Midler (1990)

5. Keith Whitley – When You Say Nothing At All (1988)
The Usurpers: Alison Krauss (1994); Ronan Keating (1999)

6. John Michael Montgomery – I Swear (1994)
The Usurper: All-4-One (1994)

7. The Judds – Change The World (1988)
The Usurper: Eric Clapton (1996)

8. Bob Dylan – Make You Feel My Love (1997)
The Usurpers: Garth Brooks (1998); Adele (2008)

9. The Himalayans – Round Here (1991)
The Usurper: Counting Crows (1993)

10. World Party – She’s The One (1997)
The Usurper: Robbie Williams (1998)

13. Brenda Russell – Get Here (1987)
The Usurper: Oleta Adams (1990)

12. G.C. Cameron – It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday (1975)
The Usurper: Boyz II Men (1991)

13. Linda Clifford – All The Man I Need (1982)
The Usurper: Whitney Houston (1990)

14. Barbi Benton – Ain’t That Just The Way (1976)
The Usurper: Lutricia McNeal (1997)

15. Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos – Don’t Know Why (1998)
The Usurper: Norah Jones (2001)

16. Randy Newman – You Can Leave Your Hat On (1972)
The Usurpers: Joe Cocker (1986); Tom Jones (1997)

17. Secret Garden – You Raise Me Up (2000)
The Usurper: Josh Groban (2003), Westlife (2005)

18. Betty Hutton – Blow A Fuse (1951)
The Usurper: Bjork (as It’s Oh So Quiet, 1995)

19. Anslem Douglas – Doggie (1998)
The Usurper: Basha Men (as Who Let The Dogs Out,2000)

20. Tori Alamaze – Don’t Cha (2004)
The Usurper: The Pussycat Dolls (2005)

Bonus Tracks:
Horst Winter – Und jetzt ist es still (1948)
The Usurpers: Betty Hutton (as Blow A Fuse, 1951); Björk (as It’s Oh So Quiet, 1995)
John Michael Montgomery – I Can Love You Like That (1995)
The Usurper: All-4-One (1995)
Billy Joel – To Make You Feel My Love (1997)
The Usurpers: Garth Brooks (1998); Adele (2008)
Shalamar – This Is For The Lover In You (1980)
The Usurper: Babyface (1997)
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah (1984)
The Usurpers: Jeff Buckley (1994); plus thousands others


More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Country
The Originals: The Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: : Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals:  Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: : Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: : Christmas Edition

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  1. halfhearteddude
    May 30th, 2019 at 08:14 | #1

    PW – amdwhah

  2. MusicLover
    May 30th, 2019 at 18:44 | #2

    Hello, many thanks for your great Job !!! Referring the song “All the man I need” you mentioned Linda Clifford as the Original-Singer from 1982, from the Album “I’ll keep on loving you”. I know that Sister Sledge released the Album “The Sisters” which included this song on 18.01.1982. Is it possible that Linda Clifford released her Album earlier that year ?
    Just a thought …

    Best rgds.

  3. Lynchie
    May 30th, 2019 at 23:57 | #3

    I have the Brenda Russell and Oleta Adams versions in my collection. I prefer the Oleta Adams cover because her voice seems right for the song.

  4. halfhearteddude
    May 31st, 2019 at 15:50 | #4

    According to some sources, ‘The Sisters’ was released in June 1982, and secondhandsongs.com lists Clifford’s as the first release. But Wikipedia and Discogs agree with your date, which would then indeed be a month earlier than Clifford’s release.

  5. Rhodb
    June 2nd, 2019 at 00:27 | #5

    Great work . I really enjoy the original series, interesting stuff


  6. October 22nd, 2023 at 23:51 | #6

    Are you sure The Judds recorded a version of “Change The World”? It first appeared on Wynonna Judd’s 1998 album, and Wikipedia says the song was written in the “mid-90’s”.


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