Lost in Music: Kim Wilde – Close

Date
Published in
So So Gay website (UK)
Written by
John Paul Lucas

In April 1981, Kim Wilde was sitting at #2 in the UK charts with 'Kids In America' - her début single and an instant new wave classic. In one of those little pop taste crimes, she was held off number one by denim-clad 'naffmeister Shakin' Stevens, but nevertheless the song proved to be a career-maker, and a string of some of' the most distinctive and forward thinking hits of the eighties followed.

What set Wilde apart from her contemporaries is that most of her early material came from the consistent songwriting partnership of her brother Ricky and her father Marty - who had been a chart star himself in the fifties and sixties. This tight unit allowed Wilde's music to explore broader themes than many other pop stars of the time, including war ('Cambodia'), suicide ('View from a Bridge') and...erm... Tinnitus ('Water On Glass').

Wilde enjoyed huge popularity not just in the UK but all over the world, particularly in France where she was dubbed 'The British Bardot', and 'Cambodia' sold over a million copies. It also topped the charts in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland - despite missing the top ten at home. As the decade wore on, her successes became more sporadic, and her albums Catch As Catch Can and Teases & Dares both failed to crack the UK top 40 or generate any serious hits. In 1986 her career got a major boost when her energetic cover of The Supremes hit 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' returned her to the UK top three and became a number one hit in the USA. This set the stage for Wilde's greatest period of success yet, with the release of her platinum selling 1988 album Close.

In April 1981, Kim Wilde was sitting at #2 in the UK charts with 'Kids In America' - her début single and an instant new wave classic. In one of those little pop taste crimes, she was held off number one by denim-clad 'naffmeister Shakin' Stevens, but nevertheless the song proved to be a career-maker, and a string of some of' the most distinctive and forward thinking hits of the eighties followed.

What set Wilde apart from her contemporaries is that most of her early material came from the consistent songwriting partnership of her brother Ricky and her father Marty - who had been a chart star himself in the fifties and sixties. This tight unit allowed Wilde's music to explore broader themes than many other pop stars of the time, including war ('Cambodia'), suicide ('View from a Bridge') and...erm... Tinnitus ('Water On Glass').

Wilde enjoyed huge popularity not just in the UK but all over the world, particularly in France where she was dubbed 'The British Bardot', and 'Cambodia' sold over a million copies. It also topped the charts in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland - despite missing the top ten at home. As the decade wore on, her successes became more sporadic, and her albums Catch As Catch Can and Teases & Dares both failed to crack the UK top 40 or generate any serious hits. In 1986 her career got a major boost when her energetic cover of The Supremes hit 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' returned her to the UK top three and became a number one hit in the USA. This set the stage for Wilde's greatest period of success yet, with the release of her platinum selling 1988 album Close.

During this period, Wilde was also supporting Michael Jackson on the European leg of his Bad tour, and footage from these packed gigs was featured in the 'You Came' video. The success of the single and the tour helped Close to enjoy the strongest sales of her career - over 2 million copies worldwide, including well over 300,000 units in the UK. The next single, 'Never Trust A Stranger', was another smash and remains an enormous fan favourite. A big haired, lip-quivering, irresistibly melodramatic wronged-woman anthem that Cher would have traded her wig collection for.

The pace slows down for 'Four Letter Word', a tender ballad with a classic 50s girl-group vibe that not only gave her a third consecutive UK top ten, but also picked up an Ivor Novello nomination. Compared to the strident delivery of the previous singles, Wilde shows her under-recognised versatility here by employing a higher, more fragile register that suggests she could break down at any moment. It's a thoroughly convincing performance, and no doubt many an empathetic teenage tear was shed to this one in bedrooms across the world.

The string of smash hits was broken by 'Love In The Natural Way', which was perhaps a single too far, but nevertheless easily stands up to its more famous predecessors. Featuring rich production and one of Wilde's most soulful vocals, it's a warm-hearted power ballad which certainly doesn't sound like a throwaway release.

In fact throwaway filler tracks are nowhere to be found on the five tracks from Close that didn't see a release. The beguiling, highly atmospheric 'European Soul' may just be the best song on the whole album. Inspired by the paintings of Belorussian-born French artist Marc Chagall, it's the kind of track that you'd certainly never have heard on a Kylie album, demonstrating that while Wilde had opted for a slicker sound, she and her songwriting relatives had by no means abandoned the more left-field songwriting inspirations that had always set her apart from her peers.

Elsewhere, 'Stone' is another force-ten power ballad with environmentally conscious lyrics, while 'Love's A No' and 'You'll Be The One Who'll Lose' are beautifully constructed love songs. The album ends on a curveball, a fairly straightforward reading of Todd Rundgren's 'Lucky Guy'. It's a quiet end to the record, but perfectly judged - showcasing the warmer, richer elements of Wilde's voice divorced from the glossy production of the other tracks. It's also a nice example of her excellent taste - Close finds Kim embracing the 80s pop sound, but succeeds in doing so without drowning out her personality. For that and many other reasons, it's not only a key moment in her career, but also one of the best pop albums of the era.

Close was recently reissued as a fully remastered double-disc deluxe edition, featuring B-sides, remixes and extensive liner notes. You can pick up the new release from Amazon or iTunes. Kim Wilde will also tour the UK in December. For full details, check out her official website.