A walk on the Wilde side

She’s taken Britain by storm – Kim Wilde, the sweet young thing who can turn on a smoulder that proves she’s not ust a daddy’s girl… Sally Moulsdale went to meet the brightest new face of pop.

Bursting into the record company office to a chorus of friendly greetings, she’s full of breathless apologies for being late. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I had a flat on the motorway. It was near enough to a garage – theres my luck again – but I did have to wade across a field of mud to get to it…’ She sticks out a now-famous – and muddy – stiletto-heeled boot to prove it. Everyone murmurs in sympathy and her press officer stands by, arms folded, positively beaming with pleasure at the effect of his young star. And I find myself smiling, too…

Such is the charm of Kim Wilde – and such is her beauty that she can hoick her peroxide-blonde hair int oan excuse for a pony-tail, leaving the greasy fringe to stand on end, throw together an outfit of black leather mini, T-shirt, black and red sailor top and wooly black leg-warmers, and come across as sexy but not sleazy – and unquestionably stunning. As she plops herself on to the sofa next to me, I notice that even she can’t quite get away with dark brown smears of eyeshadow over he deep blue eyes – but somehow on her it looks like a statement of individuality rather than a mistake. And keeping in touch with your own personality is no mean feat when you suddenly become a big pop star at 20. Though Kim does admit she gets rather more support from her production team than most – for they just happen to be her family…

‘My brother Ricky got me into the business, really. I came into the studio to sing backing vocals on one of his tracks and Mickie Most saw me – and made me the lead singer!’ She grins cheekily. ‘Now Ricky writes the melodies and he’s my producer – which means he tells me if I’m singing flat or kicks me up the bum to make me work harder!’ But, of course, it’s her dad who has had the most influence on her career – if indirectly. He’s the famous fifties rock ‘n’ roller, Marty Wilde, so Kim grew up in an atmosphere of pop and rock (‘and it’s certainly kept him young!’). Young enough, in fact, to be the lyricist for Ricky’s melodies.

‘It’s a great set-up, working with my dad and my brother’, she says chattily. ‘I feel very relaxed with them – I can sing what I want to sing and how I want to. There are no pressures on me and I think that’s why things have gone so well.’ They certainly have. Her first single, ‘Kids in America’, composed by Ricky in 20 minutes, was a smash hit and was swiftly followed by four other chart-topping singles and a successful album.

Now there’s a secodn album, due to be released even as you read this. ‘We finished recording it at about two last night’, Kim confides. (She doesn’t look as if she’s been up half the night.) ‘It got a bit behind schedule because as we were doing the last song I started feeling it wasn’t right. I couldn’t just let it go because you have to keep up certain standards – you can’t afford not to. So we had a vote and we all admitted we felt the same way, so we changed that number for another which we all felt happy with. That sort of switch doesn’t happen very often because usually the songs are great, but I’m lucky to be able to have so much control over what I sing.’

Indeed she is, and her close-knitfamily also provide her with the sort of stable background a girl might need when she suddenly hits he big time. ‘Yeah, it’s a good idea living at home’, Kim agrees. ‘My lifestyle hasn’t changed at all in that respect… the family are just as they were before. And if I ever start believing it all and thinking well yes, I am pretty wonderful, my mum’s very quick to pull me down off that ego trip! That’s not to say I don’t get a thrill out of all the attention – it’s great fun – but only as long as you take it tongue-in-cheek and don’t start believing it all.’

That sounds a fairly wholesome attitude. Kim nods sagely. ‘Wholesome, yeah, that’s what I am and that’s how I try to come over. i don’t try to be anything else, or pretend to be someone I’m not. I’m just always myself in any situation – a wholesome, natural, honest sort of human being!’

But what about her sex-kitten image, the pouting lips, the easy comparison with, for instance, Brigitte Bardot – isn’t that pretending to be something she’s not? Or is that her alter ego? ‘Well, I’m a woman, so clearly there’s a sexual energy there’, she says. ‘But when only that side is emphasised by the press, obviously it’s going to look cheap and smutty’. She leans forward to make her point. ‘The way I look at it, the articles that mphasise the sex bit really show up crappy journalism, and I think it’s a shame it gets into the papers. I’m sure those journalists, when they irst started working, didn’t think they’d end up doing that type of piece. I feel sorry for them that they’ve had to sink so low.’

Kim is not a lady to refrain from saying what she thinks. In the course of the interview I’ve already heard her opinions on a range of subjects, from communication without speech to a spirited defence of the title of her song ‘Cambodia’ (‘It’s ridiculous to suggest you can’t sing about something because it has political overtones. I think that’s a very narrow-minded attitude. You ought to be able to sing a love song set in Ulster if you want to – or why not a song all about Adolf Hitler?’)

Now, record companies have been known to try to guide and guard with an iron hand the lives of their hottest properties, so have RAK’s ideas about Kim Wilde and Kim’s own strong views ever been in conflict? ‘Oh no!’ she says, shocked by the very idea. ‘The record company is like another family – it’s very small and friendly. I know Mickie Most has the same ideas on how my career goes as I have – and he’s not unapproachable at all.’ As Mr. Most has just waved through the sheet-glass window at Kim and been rewarded with a horrific grimace, this seems to be an understatement. ‘I’ve never sat down round a table with people and discussed what I should not do or say’, she continues. ‘As far as RAK are concerned, there’s no pressure on me to look a certain way or wear certain clothes – they leave that entirely up to me.’

Kim may have control over he music and her image – “the important things” – but her record company does control her everyday life. in that they organise hectic schedule of recording sessions, interviews and television shows at home and abroad. Does she mind that where she goes and what she does are decided for her by someone else? ‘No, because I’m being promoted as an international star – in fact, I’m bigger in Europe than I am here – so there’s bound to be a lot of travelling, and I don’t mind that at all. I haven’t got any ties like a husband or a house to maintain, so there’s nothing to prevent me from travelling at short notice. Actually, I really love getting on a plane and jetting off to all those places. It’s a chance to get away – here I’m at everyone’s beck and call, but on a plane no one can get hold of me!’

Just in the pas tfew days Kim has been up to Newcastle to do a television show, back to London late at night to continue recording, off for a couple of days to Belgium for more television appearances and straight back to the studio to finish the album. And things will be getting even more hectic, for this summer she’ll be abroad on her first concert tour, whci hcould be followed up by a tour in England in the autumn. It must feel good to have made it that big – but what about the price of fame? Surely her frantic lifestyle means missing out on things that, at 21, she might be enjoying? Friends, boyfriends, a social life…?

‘There’s no problem with my social life’, she shrugs. ‘That can be fitted in okay because all my good friends live locally. It’s another advantage of living at home. There’s a gang of about 10 of us – we don’t see each other that much but when we do we have fun! My close friends I see as often as I can – it hasn’t proved to be a problem. And my job does mean that I’m meeting nwe people all the time…’

And boyfriends? ‘I haven’t any emotional ties at the moment’, she says in the cool, careful tone of one issuing a press statement. ‘But then’, she continues with a sneaky grin, ‘I might have a boyfriend that no one knows about and I can just say I haven’t! You don’t have to make your whole life public – I’ve learnt that recently.’

Not that Kim goes in for the dark glasses-and-incognito-wardrobe approach – after all, she enjoys all the fuss being made over her, even down t obeing mobbed in Germany. ‘Oh yes, I came out of the studio and it was amazing! There were fans all over the place and I was bundled into the care by security men, being shoved an pushed – and my shoes were coming off. It was great, I loved every minute of it!’

Fortune soon follows fame, but Kim takes a careful attitude to the money rolling in. ‘I’m very respectful of it – I know what it can do to people so I don’t splash it around. What’s good about having money is that it gives me independence – I like that.’

But hand in hand with the gains of being famous goes the loss of personal privacy. Does this side of the coin bother her? ‘It’s true that I am getting far more paranoid about being seen in public – in the street, say – than I was before. I just feel on edge in case I’m recognised. It’s not that my fans here do anything when they see me – they might ask for my autograph or just say hello – but it’s the feeling of always being watched that I don’t like.’ Kim has to face the possibility that, when she does want to go out with a boyfriend – to a restaurant or a nightclub, perhaps – a blaze of publicity will be hard to avoid. Witness the headlines and photos splashed across the gossip columns when she went out on the town with Steve Strange…

‘I am very naive about some things’, she admits disarmingly. ‘We could have avoided all that, but I didn’t know that at the time. I’m not sure that Steve didn’t, though! It was only in retrospect that I realised what was going on, when I told people where we’d been and they said, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have gone there’. Well, I didn’t know all those media people wet there, but suddenly I was made aware. It’s things like that that I’m sussing out now. ‘

However, there are some things she will never need to suss out, because Kim Wilde’s a natural. As wholesome and honest as apple pie, she’s also as down-to-earth and sensible. Whoever else goes wild about her, it won’t be herself. For, as she says with a confident smile, ‘I’ve always wanted to be famous, and I know i can handle it because I’ve got the right approach.’

You can say that again!