Making the Most of the Wildes

The best-selling single in Britain today is a recording debut by a 20-year-old unknown. Kim Wilde, singer of the catchy, strangely old-fashioned pop hit Kids in America, is the daughter of Marty Wilde, a household name in the Fifties as a rock ‘n’ roller during the halcyon era of Billy Fury and Tommy Steele.

And the events that led to Kim Wilde’s overnight success have a strange parallel with the star-making process that existed in the early days of her father’s career. Kim’s 18-year-old brother, Ricky, started the story by sending some demonstration tapes to top producer Mickie Most, the man behind the careers of such successful names as Donovan, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate and Smokie. Most, who coincidentally had been on concert tours with Marty Wilde 20 years ago when he, too, was a singer, saw promise in Ricky’s work, and asked him to his studio to make them a little more professional.

At this point, Kim came in to demonstrate the song, Kids in America, which keyboards player Ricky had written. Most says: “I immediately heard a hit. The public today is looking for a less polished, slightly do-it-yourself sound in records generally, and I knew straight away that this could be the start of a huge record and a big career for Kim. It was the last thing on all our minds when she came in that day last August, but the song had a magic and we couldn’t fail. I think Ricky and Kim were surprised by my decision to put it out as a single, but I knew from the first few notes.”

In about a month, Kim Wilde will release her album. Most sees tremendous potential in her, expecting to sell a million albums internationally. What clinches this fairytale story of pop success is the fact that the single was completed within 15 minutes, and one sessio. So many mere pop singers spend hours, weeks or months refining their work that the original touch vanishes in a sea of recording studio technology. And boredom can set in. Most says: “I told Ricky, who will write the songs with his father for the album, that I needed some material for the LP and he said he would have them ready in a week!”

The Wilde family affair is completed by the fact that Kim’s mother Joyce is a former Vernons Girl. Mickie Most, who has taken on the role of Kim’s manager, belongs to the old school of showbiz, believing in slowly building a career for his artist and preserving what he calls “scarcity value”, in the same style that Colonel Tom Parker applied to Elvis Presley. “Kim will be around for a long time”, he says, “so there’s just no need for her to rush out on the road and do concerts until she’s ready.”