Date: 23 February 1982
Originally published in: Schlager (Sweden)
Written by: Chris Salewicz
Note: Swedish translation of an interview previously published in The Face (UK). What you see here is the original English text, with the pictures as publised in Schlager.
Flexing her feet in a pair of black Dr Martens, Kim Wilde sits in an orderly, wholesome manner at one end of a carefully battered, brown leather couch in the St John’s Wood office of Mickie Most, her manager and the boss of her label, Rak records.
She wears an old pair of Johnson’s black cotton pants, a black top, and a three-button, black leather jacket draped over her shoulders. She huddles into the jacket and clasps a mug of tea in both hands in an attempt to keep warm in the chilly room. As she speaks through her Bardot-like Cupid lips she snuffles, though a bad head cold doesn’t disguise the fact that her speech is as untainted by any accent as her healthy, apple-eating skin is unblemished by any hint of excessive living.
In fact, for the eldest child of one of Britains foremost early rock ‘n’ rollers, Kim Wilde is almost disarmingly normal as well-balanced as the constituent parts of organic shampoo. She seems totally devoid of the personality defects in which many of her little rich kid counterparts in Hollywood wilfully wallow.
“I think,” she considers, arching her strongly defined eyebrows and flicking her lions mane of hair back behind her shoulders, “that not being loved by your parents or not having a brother or not being liked at school or even wearing glasses can be a lot worse than having a famous father.
“Also, although I always knew dad was famous, I grew up with him declining in fame. By the time I was about nine he was just a musical father who did gigs and made records and occasionally appeared on TV.
“That’s why I wasn’t precocious or pretentious – I didnt have anything to be precocious or pretentious about. It wasn’t like he was a big star in a big house being visited by loads of famous people. We lived in a little house in Greenwich and lived a very normal sort of life.”
Like all daughters who are a little bit in love with their fathers, Kim glows with adoring memories whenever there’s a mention of Marty Wilde – who is exactly twice her age of 21. She admits to a vague regret that she is never able to express to his face her admiration and appreciation for him which seems to flow freely in the more objective atmosphere of interviews.
She can chuckle, though, at the TV soap-opera cliche of the Wilde family showbiz affair: father on lyrics, younger brother Ricky on music and production mother on occasional backing vocals, daughter singing lead. It sometimes seems like a propaganda exercise for the family unit. She signed with Rak Records after her brother had sought advice from Jonathan King as to which was the best label out of several that had offered Kim a deal. Ricky himself had been signed prepubescently to King’s UK operation in the early Seventies in an abortive attempt to become a British rival to the then hugely successful Donny 0smond/David Cassidy school of teenybop idols.
And Rak too is a family business: as one of the most renowned pluggers in the country Mickie Mosts brother David is an essential part of the company.
Behind the couch on which Kim sits is the visible proof of his efforts: an ostentatious wallful of silver and gold singles: in amongst the Smokie, Hot Chocolate and Suzi Quatro records sit “Chequered Love” and Kims first 45 “Kids In America”.
0n the opposite wall are the silver and gold albums awarded to the shrewdly successful Rak pure pop empire. A silver disc for the Kim Wilde album is already up there. Beneath it leaning against the wall, is the newly arrived gold LP, solid confirmation of the status of the father-and-son songwriting team.
Their astute, compulsively addictive hit permutations are the Raiders Of The Lost Ark of the seven inch single. Like that film, their songs, which bounce and bustle with so many hooks and allusions to past hits they almost might have been compiled by K-Tel, are no less enjoyable for incorporating such a plethora of reference points. These simply provide a springboard for each number’s total content.
Obviously your’s is a very close-knit family.
Yeah. There dont seem to be any major hassles when we do things together. Everything seems to fit together very well – where were in the studio, for example. I don’t know if it is because we’re family but our minds always seem to be working on the same level, all looking for the same thing. Sometimes it’s all a bit too much, but then I think theres plenty of working situations with people who arent family where there’s a lot of tension too. It just happens to be the situation lm in. I still live at home with my parents. But because I’m travelling a lot of the time I no longer get into the situation where I can’t wait to leave home like I did when I was about 16. Mind you, I enjoy my privacy, but I find I’m not getting enough time on my own. I have to divide it with my friends.
Has the attitude of your friends altered towards you in the past year?
No they havent changed towards me. I often wonder what they think. I try and put myself in their situation: I always end up thinking what a weird experience it must be for them: you’re all sitting there together and then someone comes up and asks one of your best friends for her autograph. Theres something quite absurd about it.
Did your father instil certain rules of life into you?
He did. I always felt more adult than my friends. I always enjoyed their company though. I never felt I wanted to be with older people just because I grew up a bit quicker. But I always thought I had a bit more suss. And I did have more suss. I had perceptive and intelligent parents, especially my father. Though each of my parents have their merits: my mother isn’t an intellectual, but she knows about people and has a lot of assurance and intelligence and commonsense. They were always there telling us why things happened. They were great. They really did help me through it. My father didnt sit down and give me lessons. He just gave me an insight into a lot of peoples jealousies, which is basically what a lot of it came down to. 1f there’ s anyone hurting you, it’s very ofter to do with that. He gave me the ability to reason things out and understand things like that. And I’ll be eternally grateful for it as well. It really helps now.
So he helped you have more selfconfidence?
He did in that way, but not in a lot of other ways. I didn’t grow up strong tough and resilient at all. It was just that some things he taught me made things easier~ and right up until now they’re really helping me. It’s gradually given me more confidence. It didn’t suddenly appear like magic, unfortunately… but fortunately as well: I wouldn’t have Iiked to have gone through my teens oblivious to the painful things you go through. Because you only learn from the horrible things.
What do you remember as horrible things?
I remember feeling unattractive, and feeling my personality was unattractive. Wishing I wasn’t who I was. Wishing I didn’t live in a big house. Wishing the boys fancied me instead of Susan Smart down the road… That kind of shit. I got plunged into it when I entered my secondary school. AII through that I had a big chip, until I got to the sixth form. Then suddenly when I was about 16 to 17 it became okay. That was great. I was quite well liked at school, though. I had a best friend. There was a good atmosphere. In fact I seem to have gone through my whole life with people saying to me, God you’re nothing like I expected you to be! And I dont owe that to my wonderful personality but to the very fact that lve been brought up well.
You were at St Albans art college. Did you finish your course?
In a manner of speaking. I got a bit bored with it at the end- it was only a one-year foundation course. And everything seemed to be falling almost into some kind of plan: I left school and got accepted into St. Albans quite by chance, and by the end of my time there I was doing vocal backings and had recorded “Kids”.
Did you used to go to a lot of gigs?
I was never a great gig-goer. I was more into records and music. At college I was into The Clash, and-a guy called Clive Pig who made great records round St Albans like “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”. You must have heard it-its really good. The only band I went to see when I was at St Albans was Madness. I loved all that ska, because I thought it was realIy good dance music. When I was at college PiL were quite fashionable with a lot of the punkykind of people. Every party I went to ‘Metal Box’ was always on. I even went to a dinner party once and it was on all the way through. It made me feel really ill. I thought it was horrible. It just took me a long time to catch on, because one minute I hated it and the next I thought it was really good. But l’m glad I didnt like it just because everyone else was liking it. I still think some of its a total dirge. I can’t like a band because everyone else likes them.
So how do you feel about it sudenly being hip to like Kim Wilde?
I don’t know. I don’t really like tothink about it too much. I’d rather they did than they didn’t. I feel maybe its some sort of kitsch appeal. But I think sometimes you can take too seriously the fact that they Iook at you like that. It’s no big deal. Theres no big problem about it. I think Bucks Fizz are pretty awful but they have this kitsch appeal. When lm driving my car and a Bucks Fizz song comes on the radio, I think ‘Oh yes, what a horrible record!’ But I Iike humming it and I like seeing that blonde girl with the long legs. I think that’s a valid reason. If you like them, you like them – it’s just gut reaction.
Do you agree that people are far too concerned about what they think they ought to like? Very much so. It annoys me sometimes. Generally I either like something or I don’t. I dont find myself liking something I think is terrible just because everyone else likes it. But obviously if everyones raving about the Joy Division album you feel sympathetic towards it. So many of your good friends are into them that you think ‘Oh there must be something about this band : lm not going to cut myself off from them entirely which is what I did for a long time. I just found that the fact that everyone was raving about them and the fact that the guy had died was so sick and pathetic that it totally turned me off them. I wasn’t going to listen to their music because I had this preconceived idea about how shit they were going to be, and that they just made it big on some poor guys death.
So who are you listening to?
I like stuff like Frank Sinatra. My dad’s got about 100 albums of his. ‘Songs For Swinging Lovers’ was the first album of his that I got into. Theres one thats really great called ‘0nly The Lonely’. Its got a great cover. I can really admire a good design. I was hopeless myself at it at art school but I can really appreciate good stuff. Its something Im not very good at that I shall endeavour to do something about.
Do you think there’s a lot of good design around at the moment?
I think a lot of it’s nicked from Fifties designs. But I do like to see anything that is well done, even if it is a rip-off.
So was your dad very into Sinatra?
He must have been. He has more Sinatra albums than Elvis ones-those two are his biggest heroes, his earliest raves. He was a very romantic young man. He got married when he was 21-idiot! (laughs: Tee-hee-hee). He used to see Billy Fury a lot. Hes a very private person. I remember he had a deer hed found injured in the road and he wanted to look after it. He brought it over to our house because we’d got some kennels. But unfortunateIy it died, and I’ve never seen anyone so upset in my life. I can’t get upset about things like that, though I’m not hard, or cruel or anything… But I dunno though… I sometimes wonder at myself. When I was on a ski-ing holiday just recently there was this little dog that everyone made friends with~~ and we called it Quinto. 0ne morning one of the girIs woke up and saw this alsatian eating it outside in the snow. I thought it was hysterical at the time. But one of the girls got very upset about it. I thought she was being pretentious though, because it was just a dog and she didn’t even know it. But perhaps she was genuinely upset. Perhaps I was being reaIly horrible. Maybe I’m just a hard bitch. I always thought I was as soft as shit. But when I heard that an alsatian had eaten Quinto the dog, I came out with all these gags about Quinto pate and Quinto cutlets everytime we went to eat a meal. It was always me making the gags. I think everyone thought I was really horrible.
What was the last significant dream you had?
It was about Adam Ant (giggles). And I won’t tell you what happened. I think it was all about something eIse. It wasn’t particularly significant, actually. I have quite good dreams, in fact. The only dream I’ve ever had that kept coming back – which I don’t have anymore – was really horrible. I’d be lying in bed in the dark, and there’d be rats running over the bed. I could feel the bumps. So I’d just get the blankets all around me, and wait until the rats had gone away. I was about ten then. I was quite a frightened person. Like most young people. But I’m not anymore.
How did you feel about your brother’s early leap for stardom?
I was jealous. Especially when a film crew came round to do something on him. I remember just sitting there being totally ignored, and all these big plans were being made for Ricky. I never disliked him for it. I directed the jealousy more at myself. I suffered into myself. It didn’t spoil our relationship. We’ve always had a really good one. It just hurt a bit sometimes because even then I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be famous. I don’t know why but I wanted it very badly. A very strange feeling.
Was that because of your ego?
I think it must have been, because I was very loved. Not because I wanted to be loved by the public, Iike some little orphan. It must have been something a bit more than that – something pretty fundamental. It’s quite frightening, really. It’s been a strong force throughout my life. It was something that kept me going. I don’t know if I created it, or if itwas alwaysthere. Its uncanny, because it happened.
Have you been trying to write songs yourself?
No, I havent tried very hard at all. It’s something I desperately want to do. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t done it. Because I want to do it very, very well. I play the piano, and I can play the guitar at a push. I’m going to try and get more involved in writing with my brother and father, and see if I can build up some kind of idea of what I want my songwriting to be about I want to write a brilliant standard with my first effort. I just have these ridiculously high standards… about most things, in fact, but particularly about songwriting. Thats the sort of thing that stops me-that self-destructive element that wont let me do it unless its perfect. Before I became what I am now, I wanted that as badly as I wanted to songwrite now. And now I’m doing it. That gave me a lot of confidence, and now I have faith that perhaps the songwriting will come that way too.
Did you used to feel in a great rush?
I did. Now I don’t. I feeI a lot better about things. I feel very good.
What do you think to the way the feminist movement has gone?
I don’t think women have treated it with respect. They’ve abused it, and made it into something quite laughable and quite vulgar. They somehow come across as being so superior and I dont like people who think theyre superior to other people. I have strong opinions about people being themseIves, and not being undermined because of their sex . But I do think they’ve fucked it up. It just reeks of frustration. There’s also an uneasy line between gay women and liberated women. Why not just find yourseIf? You’ve got your life-you should just sort yourself out there though I’ve given up with any illusion about changing the world.
Who’s your ideal women? Do you have any female role-models?
They vary. 0ne minute its Joan of Arc, the next its MariIyn Monroe. I’m divide between the two extremes-the heroisr and power of the one, and the cuteness and beauty of the other. Im very, very aware of women and their beauty. I’m interested i looking at beautiful women. I enjoy looking at oId pictures ofwomen because they took a Iot more care in those days. 1 just think nowadays peopIe waste what they have waste whats there, by abusing themselves and not taking enough care. People Iooked so much more beautiful in the Forties and Fifties. That’s why people go back to that era aIl the time. It’ll never be like that again. For example, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t fascinated by Marilyn Monroe. I don’t mention her much… I avoid talking about her, as 1 did about Blondie when I first started: much as I Iove Debbie Harry I just kept it quiet. I think Debbie Harrys magic. Marilyn took such good pictures. She was such a good model. 1 really admire her for that. 1 dont think people respect that part o her enough. Ive had my picture taken so many times 1 can realIy respect someone who’s stiII able to get it across like that. It not just naturaI. I’m onIy learning how to do it.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
A boiled egg.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
A cup of tea.
What’s your favourite colour?