13 countries are conquered by Kim. Mark Ellen hears the facts and fantasies.
KIM WILDE strolls back from the turntable and flings herself into a waiting sofa. The new Elvis Costello album wafts from the speakers, only to be drowned by a vicious bout of coughing. She hasnt been feeling herself lately.
"I've got this bloody-minded attitude" she declares. "Y'know, a sort of I-Can-Do-Anything. which gets me into a bit of trouble sometimes. Recently 1 got it into my head that 1 was unhealthy and decided I'd go out running in the morning. And Dad said: 'Be careful Kim. You'll damage your feet if you don't wear the right shoes and youre bound to catch cold if you don't wrap up.'
"And I thought, 'Rubbish!'. And look at me now; Ive got bronchitis and Ive done my feet in!"
A finger prods gently at the sole of a green suede boot. "Right here," she winces. "Very tender."
Rak Records, her small but incredibly efficient label handle her in the same homely slightly protective manner as her family. She has the mark of someone who's not only their major source of income, but also the precious offspring of a once-famous pop singer.
And - let's face it - having witnessed the careers of both her father (Marty) and her brother (Ricky, early 70s teen-idol) - who now write and produce her material - Kim would hardly be stepping off the music biz pavement if she didnt know how to dodge the traffic.
She's down-to-earth lively and instantly likeable. A far cry from the Kim Wilde you often read about in the press. The Daily Papers tend to go for the uaucy Sex-Bomb Starlet" angle: the rest for a portrait of the artist as A Rather Sensitive Person.
She doesn't care for either much.
"You know the type of thing. 'Kim Wilde'", she recites, reclining exotically on the cushions. "'the wonderful, sensual sex-kitten with her tiger-like mane of blonde hair, turns to me with her luscious poutinglips and says . . . No!', that's naff, that stuff. It doesn't bug me. In fact I couldn't give a monkey's. I've got better things to think about.
The 'intellectual' line gets the same sort of treatment. "There's this word 'Art' you see. There seems to be this tremendous disrespect for Pop Stars but if people put this 'Art' sticker on you. then they dont feel so guilty about liking you.
"Thats the problem: people feel guilty because they enjoy watching Adam Ant or whoever on the TV performing a song. People are always trying to qualify why they like music. They wont admit to themselves that it's just a pure, natural gut reaction. You either like it or you don't. If they just accepted what they felt instead of trying to reason it out" she adds, "life would be far more interesting."
THEN AGAIN, there wouldn't be all this goofy labelling if Kim Wilde wasnt A Huge Success. And that doesn't just mean England: shes now had a number one record in a staggering l3 countries around the globe and she hasn't even been released in America yet. From Finland to Australia she's a household name. She's sold more records in ten months than her Dad has in the last twenty years. Not bad for someone who "wanted to be a singer on and off - mostly on" - and has yet to step oUt before a live audience. Thankfully she couldn't be less conceited about her track record.
"I was talking to this friend of mine the other day who's got a regular nine-to-five Job. And I was saying I just couldn't do that! Even when 1 had this weekend job in a greenhouse I was always falling asleep over the carnations. If 1 hadnt become this ...'thing'" she chuckles to herself "...this pop star I'd have been a real loser, a real drop-out. I can't stand routines. My pet hate is getting up in the mornings. The prospect of the touring routine doesn't seem to worry her though. Eternally sensible, she reckons it'll be "good discipline" and also give the old vocal chords a welcome stretch. So - until her first concert appearance (which should coincide with the release of a second LP in March) - she'll carry on being this rather elusive figure who only appears on TV or in pictures, never backstage or in gossip columns.
Small wonder that shes been lumbered with this 'op star' image; its almost as if she doesn't exist in the real world. "I know what you mean. I was in the butchers the other day and this little boy comes up to me and says 'Are you Kim Wilde? And I says 'Yes'. And he says "Christ! Do you go shopping often?" and then he asks me what kind of car I've got. And I tell him it's a Volkswagen Beetle. And he says he thought pop stars had really big cars. And bodyguards. And loads of money. And here was me buying some meat and walking down the road!"
Kim reckons her appeal goes "across the board". All types, all ages, "but mainly a younger crowd as they have less inhibitions about what they should and shouldn't like". One of the obvious reasons she's got such a wide audience is because her Dad writes her lyrics. On the one hand they seem convincingly 'teenage'. on the other, you can detect the note of 40 years experience gleaming through. Still, if Kim's only 20 herself couldn't she express the teenage angle even better?
"I'm capable of expressing it, but 1 wouldn't say I'd be better. It might be better just because it was from me true, but 1 like singing Dads lyrics. He often puts a slant on things that perhaps 1 wouldn't have noticed or thought of. I'd love to write as well but I'll leave it to my Dad for a while."
The Kim Wilde notebook, sbe admits does have a few entries, but she doesn't sound over-confident about them. "1 used to write a lot of poetry, mostly about love and boyfriends." She buries ber embarrassment in another lengtby coughing fit. 'That was wben 1 was about l6! Tbe stuff 1 write now doesn't rhyme or anything. It s like prose and it really goes on and on. It's really awful! It's like a self-confession. It's a bit too explicit. It's not careful enough. Not subtle enough. A bit too honest. 1 think I'm going to bave to become a bit more contrived that' s the thing about writing pop songs. 1 really respect people who can do it."
I ask what she does with her time and she paints a pretty varied picture. There's frequent trips abroad to promote the singles, which she likes because she's always meeting loads of other English singers - Bryan Ferry, The Police, Kirsty MacColl, to name but a few. There's the odd visit to London clubs to see bands like Tenpole Tudor and Havana Let's Go! - "I like to check them out for myself instead of being told what's good". For the rest it s going out with a few friends. buying clothes down the Kensington Market, and "acting, drama. dancing, writing, singing, playing... flower arranging! Anything creative - I love it! Anything that needs a bit of flair and I'm there. I'm there - with the flair!" she repeats with obvious relish, thumping her fist on the arm of the sofa and putting on a voice like a TV commercial.
The pace of life certainly seems to have slowed down. "Well, when we started off it was always racing up and down England to radio stations getting everyone to know who I was. Now everyone knows so all the hard work has been done. "It's funny though," she adds. "I'm hardly ever in a situation where 1 feel like a star. Its still one big surprise to me. 1 watch 'Top Of The Popa' and see someone like Depeche Mode and, to me, they feel like pop stars whereas I don't."
Maybe they feel the same way about you.
"Yeah. They probably do. Probably everyone does. Depends how much theyre on a 'star trip'. Depends how much they like going to trendy nightclubs and getting recognised and banging out witb allthe in-crowd. Dunno," a shake of the bead. "I'm very wary of it all, myself."
Asked wbat sbe'd like to get out of the music biz, she leans back and stares off into space. "I suppose if you tbink about it if 1 carry on being tbis successful tben - in cliche terms - the world could be my oyster. But I'd be happy just to get a nice little place somewbere" she continues dreamily. "Witb a piano and lots of records and a nice warm bed. And some turtles," sbe decides "like the ones we saw at the photo studios tbis afternoon.
"And I'd live this terribly studious life . . ." Assumes 'scholarly' accent. "I can see myself sitting at a desk with the lamp on, reading some terribly educational-type book. Pencil in my band. Taking tbe occasional note. Tben doing a spot of painting in the late evening. And then sitting down by the fireside with my big glass of brandy..."
"Nah! One night. I couldn't put up with it for long!"