My hols: Kim Wilde

Date
Published in
The Times (UK)
Written by
Lisa Verrico

She went incognito in Australia by taking off her make-up. Next up, she’s going back to the 1980s and singing on a cruise ship.

I rarely went abroad when I was growing up. My father, Marty Wilde, was a rock’n’ roll star and he was so busy travelling that when he had time off, he wanted to stay at home. So, my summers were spent whizzing around the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside on bikes with my mates, which was fine by me.

Dad often took me and my brother Ricky with him to gigs in the UK, but we also joined him abroad a few times. The most glamorous was Sydney, for three weeks, when I was 14. It was such an adventure. I remember the size of the clear blue skies, meeting a koala and a kangaroo, going to Bondi Beach and trying lobster for the first time.

When you visit somewhere so different at that age, it stays with you, so part of my heart has been Australia-shaped ever since. I went back for a promo tour in the 1980s, but it was only when visiting in 1994, for a greatest-hits tour, that I really got to explore. I waved goodbye to the band at the airport and then a mate and I headed off with our rucksacks. The feeling of freedom was immense. We stayed in hostels and no one recognised me because I wasn’t wearing make-up. We drank wine at the Leeuwin Estate, in Western Australia, hiked through tropical rainforest near Cairns, snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, went whitewater-rafting on the Tully River and spent endless nights gazing up at the stars on Magnetic Island, off Townsville.

My first British hit, Kids in America, didn’t break me in the States, so it was only later — when You Keep Me Hangin’ On went to No 1 over there — that I covered the country on a radio tour.

I loved it, and not just New York and LA, but cities such as Minneapolis, Seattle and Reno. Everywhere, I spotted stuff I’d seen in movies as a child. Kids in America made more sense to sing once I’d actually been there.

I spent the 1980s living out of a suitcase — I could open it in Japan one day and in Austria the next. I fell in love with Paris and adored the history in Hamburg and Munich. When the Berlin Wall came down, I found I was popular in East Germany, Poland and the Baltics. I couldn’t get over the fact that audiences knew my songs, but it was terrible to see how people there had been living.

I’m still surprised to find fans in countries I’ve never visited. In Portugal — a place I’d only ever associated with my parents, who go to the Algarve to play golf — I was gobsmacked by the huge crowd that greeted me at a gig in Lisbon.

In May, I’ll be back there, as a tourist. I’m performing on an 1980s cruise and Lisbon is one of the stop-offs. I can’t wait. I may dine with the captain or I might get a better offer from Nik Kershaw. I’ve not been on a cruise before. I’m expecting it to be madness.

Unlike Dad, I’ve never taken my kids on tour. In the past, it was because of school; now it’s because they have things they’d much rather do than hang out with their mum. And that’s how it should be.

Kim Wilde, 57, had her first hit in 1981, with Kids in America, and has sold more than 30m records. She will be touring the UK from March 30 and performing on the Back to the 80s Cruise in May, alongside Tony Hadley and ABC. Her new album, Here Come the Aliens, is released on Friday. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, Hal, and children, Harry, 20, and Rose, 18.