Though feeling fit after a ski-ing holiday in the Pyrenees, Kim Wilde looks far from well. Not exactly at death's joor but certainly not the sturdy, sensual subject of her celebrated videos.
Dressed in black jeans and polo neck jumper her fair complexion looks all the more pale and she complains that she's still not shaken off the flu which blew out our proposed pre-Christmas interview.
This is borne out by a death rattie of a cough which intermittently punctuates our conversation like the beat of a broken kettie drum. At times her vaguely cockney whine is quiet to the point of inaudibility. Kim reckons it's partly to do with having given up smoking and if the logic of that escapes you, most of what she has to say makes more sense.
The tall 21-year-old has obviously learned a lot during her year in the music business and compared with some of her contemporaries seems refreshingly unaffected by success. Aware without being too selfconscious she proves to be friendly and cheerful. For those who've always reckoned Ms Wilde to be somewhat sultry and aloof, bear in mind that she is not averse to the occasional belly laugh whilst she talks long enough lor me to run out of tape.
We're sharing a leather sofa in the office of Mlckie Most, owner of RAK Records, whose premises consist of a distinctive period building in high-rent St John's Wood. Downstairs is the studio where Kim went to do some back-up vocals lor brother Ricky and ended up becoming the singer herself.
"Ricky had a production deal with RAK and the company also had first option on his material. He brought Mickie some tracks and asked: Is it OK if my sister helps out?' I ended up recording 'Kids In America'."
Despite this spectacular family coup, Kim remains very protective towards her brother, who along with father Marty has co-written and coproduced all of her material. "I still regard it as a bit of a fluke, actually. When we made those original demos I think he made a lar better job of the vocals than me and now he's under an awful lot of pressure to write hit songs."
What, more pressure than yourself even?
"Sometimes. It's all relative depending on how busy I am. Right now I've just got back trom a holiday so I feel fine. I realise the importance of a total break. I was beginning to get stale and start wondering why I'm doing it all, so it was great to get away and not have to worry about chart positions and things. I didn't have anything to do with music apart from Ilstening to some, of course."
Yet listening alone was never enough lor Kim. She had always had ambitlons to be a singer, preferably with her own band. "I'd tried to get a local band together when I was 18. I even taught one friend to play bass but even at that time I wanted a good sound. I had high standards and wasn't prepared to settle for second best, so eventually I got into the studio side and started helping Ricky out."
Hadn't he already had a crack at solo stardom - at the ripe old age of 11?
"Yes, he was a good singer... his voice hadn't broken. The idea was for him to be a teen rebel after the style of Alice Cooper's "School's Out". But he got a lot of stick at school and decided to concentrate on work. Not that he liked studylng much... for me it was different. I wasn't bright or anything but stayed on to do A-Ievels and then tried art college."
Do Ricky and your father write the songs together?
"Ricky comes up with the ideas and then Dad helps him with the music. I've pretty well kept out of the way because I've feIt they're OK together and don't need me - and I'm very pleased with what they're coming out with."
Do you have any say over the way in whlch a song is sung?
"If Ricky or Dad write something that I don't like they're not the sort to say "we're not changing it'. Luckily there are very few disagreements because I don't think we would stay together otherwise. We've all got quite strong ideas about what a song should sound like.
"I have actually sometimes got on the piano and wrltten poetry and all that shit like everyone does, but I've never thought of writing anything to keep. I don't want to force any rubbish on to the public. It's like when Debbie Harry split from Blondie the result wasn't very good. I thought: "I want you to stay with the band, 1 want you to be Blondie like you have always been, because that's how I like you.'
In the same way I'm not going to limit myself quality wise just so I can fulfil some selfish ambition. You can't just be a songwriter, you've got to write 20 shit songs before you come up with anything that's any good.
It's taken me a lot of time to actually accept that fact. For instance, when I cook a meall want it to be like the very highest cuisine. Y'know, it's ridiculous. It's horrible to impose high standards on yourself because it's so soul destroying when you've got a lot to live up to. But I don't know. Eventually it might be worth it."
What about the next song you'll be singing? Is there another hit in the pipeline?
"We've got a few tracks to choose from but I have a feeling we haven't got it. I'm not sure, I can never teIl. I find it very hard to pick my own hits."
Did you think 'Kids In America' would be a hit?
"I think I did, yeah. Everyone was so positive about it, it was hard not to be. Like I was told by this guy here (gesturing towards Micky Most's empty chair), the most successful hit picker around, that it was going to be a massive hit, so it was hard for me to think otherwise."
Don't you feel you're being constantly manipulated. Like that TV programme implied Sheena Easton is, for example?
"Well, I might have been naive, but when I first started I didn't think anyone would try anything like that. I still find it very strange that someone could walk into a record company, be taken to the hairdressers and then down to the fashion places.
"I still find that a very strange thing. l can't believe it actually happens. When l first came on to the scene, l had no fear of being controlled, I just got hold of it and no one stopped me."
What about things like make-up though? Did you leave that to the experts?
"No, l don't like leaving something as personal as that to the experts although I did when I started and didn't know very much. l was being made-up and my hair done and everything and most of the time I was thinking I don't like that at all.
'Pretty soon I had very strong ideas about the way I look and started to put my foot down, realising that others don 't necessarily know what they're talking about... it's like doctors, you know what l mean? One might say you're going to die in six weeks so you have to go to another in case he's wrong. Now it's a ridiculous thing to think that a doctor could be wrong but if he can be, why not a hairdresser or a make-up artist?
"It's taken me a long time to question people in authority to any great extent because I've always just assumed in my blind fashion that people who are in a good job should know what they are doing."
Does this explain why she enjoyed school more than her brother, who apparently did question authority?
"He's very meticulous about people, but I think that's partly due to the fact that between the ages of 16 and 19 he was surrounded only by adults, whilst on the road with Dad."
Why, did he used to be a roadie with your father's band? 'Yeah, he used to do the humping and get Dad the coke after the gig. Coco Cola that is!"
Another member of the Wilde family who plays a key part in Kim' career, is her mum who co-manage her with Mickie.
"She's a very astute business lady, having managed my father for six years as weIl."
Doesn't working with your family get rather stifling?
"Yes. But when it's good, it's very good and it's not worth throwing away just because it's occasionally stifling. When it gets too much I just go out with some friends, for dinner perhaps, and soon feel OK again."
And how about living at home with your family as well? Wouldn't you rather have a place of your own?
"Yeah, it would be useful on a practical basis. Like the long drive back to Hertfordshire wears me out and it isn't helped by having a three-year-old sister who immediately wants my attention. Aiso I'm accumulating lots of personal possessions and my bedroom's crammed full of junk even if the house itself is fairly large.
"But most of the time I'm happy with the situation. Personally, I never feit that running away was a good idea because I never like running away from anything. Ilike to work things out for myself and face up to them."
Do you find you can keep in touch with all your old friends?
"Sure, it's not hard to do. I mean I was surprised to read in a certain interview that a certain star said: 'All my friends have changed, I can't talk to them any more.'
"I mean what kind of relationships did he have? You have to make an extra effort with friends but then I always have because I've always valued them a lot."
Have you made any friends with other people involved with the pop scene? Who have you come across either by coincidence or otherwise?
"Well, Kirsty MacColl I've got to know really well and I think she's great. Steve Strange, too, he's actually a lovely person. There are not that many others - just names I meet whenever we are all doing radio interviews in Germany or wherever. People like Aneka, Altered Images and The Police. Just faces, really. Yes, I met Sting. He didn't say very much although he did mention that he liked my record. The only person I don't want to meet is Elvis Costello."
Don't want to? Why?
"Because I admire him so much that I'd probably make an arse-hole of myself telling him so! He's had such an influence on my musical taste and really enhanced my direction."
Talk turns to his recent London shows and his career in general and eventually I have no choice but to brag about the legendary undercover interview I conducted with the rock 'n' roll Poet Laureate some 11 months ago.
"Oh!" she exclalms, "you're the one that did that? Ah, you ... you're so lucky you didn't get a punch in the face!"
When I tell her this was exactly what did happen she laughs uproariously before sitting on the edge of her seat to hear the rest the story.
From Elvis the conversation moves on to other national heroes - like Adam. What do you think of him and the way he's presented himself?
"I like him very much. I think he's pure quality entertainment and I like to be entertained. He's very clever and it's nice to feel that someone like him is around. I feel in a similar situation to him, although not as much obviously, because he's a massive star. I can sympathise wltn what he's up to, because I'm in the same game, though doing it slightly differently." You mean having to present yourself in your most marketable way without losing sight of your identity?
"Mmmmm, that's something of which I am painfully aware and the reason why you probably won't see me change very much." But surely you want to develop and move on?
"Yeah, yeah but it will have to be development rather than drastic change. I mean I hope it progresses. I've changed quite a lot since last year. I suppose it depends upon what kind of trousers I buy, it seems to have a lot to do with it!"
Sure. How do you teel about being a sex symbol? Some commentators have described you as another Bardot or Deborah Harry whilst our readers have voted you No 1 sex symbol in the annual poll.
"Have they?" she enquires blankly. "I don't think about it. I read it and laugh."
Isn't there any conscious effort on your part to be an object of sex and glamour?
"Glamour, I love glamour," she replies with a mixture of sneakiness and relief. "But I wish I could be a bit more glamorous. I wish I could be... one of those girls that wear one of those beautiful off-the-shoulder dresses," Kim fantasises, illustrating her desire with a flourish, "but I dunno, I'm not sure about that in public. I might wear an elaborate gown to go out in private, but I'm not sure about in front of the camera."
What, you mean tor like a balI or a party?
"A ball? oh yes!" she mocks, laughing out loud. "Oh yes it is occasionally that I go to the odd ball, get the old frock out." Well, wasn't your 21st birthday party at the end of last year cracked up to be some kind of posh event in a stately home?
"Yes", she concedes, in an uppity tone. "It was a very good party."
It transpires that the reason tor this sudden change in manner is because of the way in which RECORD MIRROR reported the event and the particular column in which it was recorded. Need I add that Kim and Greta Snipe have recently fallen foul of one another? I catalogued the series of disasters the fanciful Greta has caused us; threatened law suits, advertisements pulled out, cancelled interviews... and she laughs hysterically.
"No," she contlnues regaining her good humour, "I don't feel right in full evening dress except when it's tor a specific occasion. I couldn't do it in the public eye cos that's just not my natural dress sense."
So what is? Jeans and a leather jacket?
"Not even leather, actually this thing is plastic!"
How would you describe your look. Rough 'n Ready?
"Rough 'n Ready? I dunno. Yes, I suppose I am, really. Well sometimes I am. These are," she says, pointing to a pair of sensible, no doubt fleece-lined monkey boots, "because they're for a purpose and I like buying things for a purpose. I bought these forthe snow and going ski-ing but at the same time I can wear something terribly purposeless like this belt!
Or go out in a T -shirt and sandals on a freezing cold day. No, not to be different but because they are the only things I can be bothered to find."
And she thinks that giving up smoking has given her this ongoing dose of flu! Do you still make your own clothes? Or don't you have time anymore?
"Well, I do tend to be tied up with vork most of the time. In a few veeks we'll be recording and then it's off to America and Japan for promotional work so it'll be another round of meeting the Press and Radio DJs. The main prerogative this year will be America."
Priority, you mean.
"Priorlty, yeah" she giggles, "but Christ, it's the hardest thlng you know, these promotional tours. Last year I went to God-knows-how-many countries - Australia, South Africa all over the place and didn't see anything except the inside of radio stations. It was like a whole month of getting into the car, driving miles, doing an interview, golng into a record shop, signing maybe 150 autographs, getting back into the car...
Would you have rather gone on the road playing live gigs, or do you reckon that would have been even more exhausting?
"No, it would have been something to get excited about. Live pertorming is something that really excites me a lot and I want to do it and definitely will," Kim decides determinedly.
So why the delay?
"Weil, it's just the way it's worked out for me. I mean some bands get together, get a record deal, make an LP, and tour. With me it's been different. I mean I've often mentioned it to him (again pointing to Mickie's chair) but each time I'm about to insist he's out of the country (doubtless setting up your next promotional tour).
"But this is the xear of doing what I want to do," she says, jokingly thumping the arm of the settee. "I've done enough bloody gallivanting round the world. I think it's time to get this show on the road!"
So on that resolute note, here endeth the Kim Wilde feature. It's heartening to hear her persistence about touring, from the point of view of giving us a chance to see the extent to which she is manipulated by her family and the Most Empire, as weIl as the possibility of actually seeing her live.
Though hardl y coming across as the most witty or stimulating of individuals - as shown by her reluctance to be drawn into the inevitable discussion about her role as a sex symbol - she was nonetheless extremely pleasant to chat to.
Our conversation was more like one between strangers on a train than a formal interview. When her train finally pulls into some station prior to her first ever gig, I'll look forward to congratulatlng her. If only tor having her own way and, er, getting that show on the road.