Date: 19 September 1981
Originally published in: Billboard (USA)
Written by: Peter Jones
Word-of-mouth, Personal Promotions, Not Live Shows build sales
London – Kim Wilde, 20-year-old daughter of onetime British rock ‘n’ roller Marty Wilde, is following fellow distaff Britons Sheena Easton and Kate Bush to international chart acceptance, though her modus operandi is different.
A discovery of industry veteran Mickie Most, head of RAK records, she is building substantial record sales via a campaign of word-of-mouth and personal promotion, but no live shows.
And her breakthrough was virtually an accident, for she originally planned to be a painter-designer.
Wilde’s father was a consistent UK chart name from 1958-62, with cover versions of American hits like “Honeycomb”, “Endless sleep”, “Donna”, “Teenager in love” and “Sea of love”.
When his career subsequently dipped, he worked to promote son Ricky as a teenybop idol in the Little Jimmy Osmond mould. That failed.
But now Ricky, 19, and father Marty write Kim’s material, while Ricky produces. And mother Joyce, a former singer and dancer, is her manager.
Kim Wilde’s first single was “Kids in America”, penned by brother Ricky in 30 minutes. A British charttopper, it also went gold in Australia, South Africa and Sweden, while charting in Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand and Portugal.
Mickie Most recalls: “What I heard, immediately, was a hit. The public today is looking for a less polished, slightly do-it-yourself sound in records generally. I knew instinctively that this could be the start of a huge record, and a big career for the girl.”
He’d heard her, initially, singing backing vocal on demos of new songs by the male Wildes. RAK records opted to have some rerecorded with Kim Wilde’s voice up front. That debut single now nears the three million unit sales mark worldwide, claims RAK.
The followup “Chequered Love”, recorded over two days, has long since topped the one million mark. It went top 10 in al lthe territories where the original single scored, and added a few new ones.
And the third Wilde family single is “Water on glass”, top 10 in the UK. The song is about a medically rare minority of people who continually hear noises in their head and can’t be cured of them.
The first album, “Kim Wilde”, engineered by Stephen Stuart and produced by Ricky Wilde, sold 500.000-plus units in Europe alone in less than two months after its June release.
Yet, so far, there have been no stage shows for Kim Wilde, just video clips for promotional purposes, plus television or radio chat excerpts.
Since March this year, she has consistently travelled Europe, notably Germany, France (including the peak-viewing “Johnny Hallyday Show”), Sweden and Holland, and she’s spent a lot of time in Australia and South Africa.
Another off-beat angle to her career is that she seems to give interviews only for the teenyboppiest pop magazines, though at the same time gaining huge space in mass circulation dailies and magazines in the territories she visits.
A sample Daily Express headline here: “Which symbol, Kim or Debbie, is the sexiest?” Barely a mention of the records which are considered good, straight, bouncy pop fare.
Mickie Most says: “She hasn’t done a tour yet, because there’s no need to, not until the end of the year maybe.”
He admits he like to preserve the “scarcity value” of the singer. But he insists: “She’ll be around for a long time. There’s no need to rush her out on the road until she’s ready.”
Kim Wilde says of her well-remembered rocking father: “Maybe it’s harder for me to make it, because there seems to be a taboo in the business about sons and daughters of famous fathers. I haven’t got that driving force which makes a lot of pop stars successful: a deprived background. But my own driving force is just as potent.”
Most, who set up his RAK label here in 1969, had a previous international solo girl success with Suzi Quatro, discovered by him in Detroit in 1970 when he was recording Jeff Beck.
He looks now to the US to complete the Kim Wilde breakthrough and plans promotional activity here through the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, Marty Wilde himself is working more than ever since his heyday on personal appearances, set in the context of the general rock-revivel nostalgia atmosphere generated here. Wilde’s old recordings, especially his first three late ’50s albums for the old Philips label, are being snapped up by collectors here for up to $60.
And in terms of Wilde family pop longevity, there’s still a daughter aged two, and a new baby, Marty Jr., a few months old, in the wings.