Is Kim Wilde?

My esteemed colleague Harry van Nieuwenhoven has written it very well in the album review a couple of months ago: ‘Best thing of it all is Kim herself. A cool looking girl of this time, appealing to a broad young audience with her good looks. To all the girls, because they want to look as modern but not controversial like Kim, to the punks because of the rough, non-conformistic element in her looks and to the disco boys because of the style and distinction in her appearance.’
Together with the strong singles Kids in America and Chequered love plus a reasonably well done debut album the success story of the phenomenon Kim Wilde has become a fact. The question is: does Muziekkrant OOR have to pay attention to Kim Wilde, yes or no??
After many heated discussions, extra meetings and divisions in the camp it was decided that Kim Wilde had to be questioned. Maybe then the question posed by Van Nieuwenhoven can be answered: Is Kim Wilde Real or Not?

When I arrive near the London RAK Records on a sunny afternoon, Kim is outside on the porch enjoying the sun. ‘You are right on time’, she says, ‘do you want tea or coffee?’ Popstars can disappoint when looked at from up close. But Kim is not such a case: she looks even better than in videos or on photographs.

Have you come to London especially for this interview, I ask her.
‘Not at all. Dad and Ricky are downstairs in the studio recording new songs for me and I usually still go along with them.’
Daddy is the now 42 year old rock & roll star Marty Wilde, who in real life is called Reginald Smith and who became famous in England between 1958 and 1962 with hits like Endless Sleep, Donna, A Teenager In love, Sea Of Love and Bad Boy. After ’62 it was over, but Marty has always managed to earn his living in music since then.
‘I am 20 and Ricky is 19, so you see that we were born in the best years of his career; when daddy became famous he met mom, who was a dancer, and then they got married. After it was over with dad’s popularity, he formed a trio with mom and Justin Hayward, who later went to The Moody Blues. During that time Justin lived in our house. It went fine for a couple of years, but then Justin wanted to do something else and the trio fell apart. Daddy devoted himself to writing songs then and he did really well, because he wrote hits for a.o. Status Quo, Lulu and The Casuals. He also went on tour from time to time with a big show, with other artists.’

I read somewhere that your father had big plans to make a star out of Ricky some 10 years ago.
‘Yes, that’s right. But it kind of failed. In those days Ricky and I were fans of heavy music, like Alice Cooper, Gary Glitter and Deep Purple and dad wrote many good songs in that style. Ricky can sing such songs very well, so we recorded all those songs at home with a tape recorder, and I used to do backing vocals. With those demos dad got a record comtract for Ricky and a single was picked. On hindsight it was good they didn’t become a hit, because Ricky became unbearable. He was only ten, and he couldn’t cope with the pressure. On top of that, teachers and pupils started to act very strange towards him, so that created some tensions. Looking back, we’re glad that the whole thing with Ricky failed.’

So how did you end up in music after that?
‘Ricky had had enough of school and when he turned sixteen he immediately went off. He played keyboards very well and he could start in daddy’s band; two, three times a year they did a big rock & roll tour across England and they earned a lot of money with that. Ricky did it for two years and last summer – he was 18 – he started writing songs, wanting to record them on his own and have them released. Within a few weeks he wrote Falling Out, Tear Away and Kids In America. He recorded those songs with dad’s help, and I sang some backing vocals. Dad had written the lyrics for Ricky, by the way. With that demo they went to Mickie Most of RAK Records and he thought he could do something with it. They got a contract and could record 4 songs, after which a single would be chosen. When they were almost ready, they asked if I could come for an afternoon to sing backing vocals. I was in art college at the time, so I had to get time off too. But as I was working in the studio, Mickie Most came by. He talked with daddy and Ricky for a long time and they decided that I would take lead vocals instead of Ricky. That happened and then Mickie Most chose the song Kids In America as the first single. The rest is history…’

So now you’re a star because Mickie Most happened to walk by?
‘In fact I am. He felt I looked good and could sing well. He said that when I would be the artist, success would be guaranteed. It was unexpected but sooner or later I would have started a singing career anyway.’

Didn’t Ricky feel bad about it?
‘I believe he did at first. But he thinks producing is a lot of fun too and it takes up a lot of time. On top of that, Ricky will be releasing a single of his own soon, so it’s not that bad.’

Did he have any experience as a producer before he started working with you?
‘No he didn’t actually. But I have to say that dad and Ricky produced the tracks together, and dad knows a lot about it. But because he wants Ricky to become a good and successful producer and profits from my success, only Ricky’s name is on the sleeve as producer.’

Since when did you know you wanted to go in this business?
‘Since I was ten, I think. When I started singing backing vocals for dad. When I was sixteen, there was this nice guy in dad’s band who played various instruments and he helped me a lot. He made tapes of songs so that I could sing them whenever I wanted to.’

You don’t have that much input yourself, do you?
‘No, not a lot. Daddy and Ricky have very outspoken ideas about what they want and I think I’d better not get involved in that. Only when it comes to singing, I have good ideas of my own.’

Don’t you write songs yourself?
‘Only secretly. I have a lot to learn I fear.’

Will you be performing live in the future?
‘Yes, I will, but not before summer next year. They are planning on releasing some more records first. On top of that, I don’t have a group yet and that’s very important of course.’

So who are those boys in your videos and on the cover of the album?
‘That’s Ricky plus two guys who have played a couple of things on the LP. James Stevenson and Calvin Hayes. But most of the instruments on the album were played by Ricky and daddy. I don’t know whether James and Calvin will be in my band, Ricky will decide on that, because he will most probably be the leader of the band.’

Why are you presented with a group when it doesn’t exist for real?
‘That was Mickie Most’s idea. It seemed better to present a group, I don’t know why exactly.’

Have you ever been on stage before?
‘Sure, hundreds of times, because since I was sixteen I have done backing vocals with my mum when dad went on tour. So I do have some stage experience, although it isn’t exactly in the spotlights. But a year or two ago we stopped doing that work, because I wanted to get into art college and mum became pregnant again. I have a sister of two called Roxanne and a brother of six months old who’s called Marty. They’re a lot of fun. Just for them I won’t be leaving home for a couple of years yet.’


Daddy Marty Wilde is just called Reg Smith when he is discovered by Larry Parnes in 1957 while he’s playing guitar in a London coffee bar. Larry gives him his artist name. Contemporaries like Tommy Steele and Billy Fury are discovered in similar ways and some time later Cliff Richard as well. Parnes gives Wilde a spot in his rock & roll revue and arranges the first few tv appearances. Wilde’s first single is a cover version of Jimmie Rodgers’ hit Honeycomb. For some time he will record American hits for the English market and within a short time English young girls have gained an idol. Endless Sleep (by Jody Reynolds), a sad song which ends in death, is his first hit in the summer of 1958. Marty is included in Jack Good’s popular tv-show Oh Boy.
1959 is the best year for him: Donna (by Richie Valens), Teenager In love (Dion and the Belmonts) and Sea Of love (Phil Phillips) are all hitsm just like his LP Wilde About Marty.
A monthly magazine bearing his name appears and he performs live for the queen and her family in the Royal Variety Show. After this, he starts writing songs and with Bad Boy he manages to continue his success. To everyone’s surprise that song reaches the 45th place in the American chart, which leads to an American tour with gigs in Hollywood and Las Vegas, TV work, and a recording session in New York.
There is no real breakthrough though and when returning to Engeland ‘newcomers’ such as Adam Faith and Cliff Richard appear to threaten his status as a top teenage idol. His following singles, Johnny Rocco, Johnny At The Crossroads and Angry, all flop, but with the song Little Girl, recorded in America, he returns to the English top 20 by the end of 1960.
His first film role in the Hellions is followed by a role in the musical Bye Bye Birdie. After that, another film: Ever Since You Said Goodbye. By the end of ’61 he has another hit with Bobby Vee’s Rubber Ball and in 1962 he appears in the Top 20 for the last time with Frankie Lee’s Jezebel.
Daddy disappears into the nightclubs (like most rock stars from the early age) but reappears in 1968 with Abergavenny.
Marty Wilde made three albums: Wilde About Marty, Marty Wilde Showcase en The Versatile Mr. Wilde, all for the Philips-label.