Date: 20 August 1983
Originally published in: Melody Maker (UK)
Love and hips dominate Simon Scott’s mind as he confronts the pout of KIM WILDE.
Mention to any male aged between 15 and 65 that you’ve spent a hot summer’s afternoon sitting in the shade chatting with Kim Wilde, then step back and watch the reaction. It usually starts with a lolling tongue, rapid followed by feigned shortness of breath and the frenzied clutching of the nearest static object as knees pretend to buckle.
Mention the same event to a media man, and you may well be greeted with a more cautious set of observations. The reason is Kim Wilde’s supposed reluctance to co-operate with the press and television.
Fact is, this prima donna persona is the result of her moody siren image as envisaged by any photographer who can focus on her famous pout and find a suitably moody brick wall for her to prop up.
Kim Wilde instantly and effortlessly destroys her public image by favouring our introduction with a 10 kilowatt smile as we saunter off in search of some shade, and an overdue lunch.
Others in the “I vant to be alone darlink” clique regard it as some form of sub-Freudian assassination of their image if anyone hints at a query about their tendency to revert to a laxative commercial pose as soon as a camera lens is pointed in her general direction; but Kim Wilde is far too experienced to be phased by such tactics. Even when our encounter kicks off with a question about her much-photographed smoulder, Kim comes back with the first in a series of confident, compact, intelligent answers.
“It comes from the time before I had a couple of my teeth capped”, she explains as the teeth in question scythed through a salad sandwich. “They were like little peg teeth, so all the time I was growing up, I was shy about my smile. Now I’ve had them done and I feel a lot better about smiling, but even so the old feeling is still there.
“Besides, there aren’t that many photographers who make me want to smile at them”.
But surely they want you to smile for them?
“Yeah, they do, but I don’t like doing things to order. The thing is, if someone takes a photo of me when I’m not aware of it, it usually turns out looking spontaneous, and that’s fine. All this thing about “Smile, be happy!”, it’s bad enough the people say about me already ,all these comparisons to Bardot and all that, I think you can encourage that sort of thing by grinning all over the place, it encourages people to stereotype you as a gushing brainless blonde bird!”
The venom of her response drove all thoughts of a flippant comment from my mind. The pushing of people into pigeon holes by a media that ought to know better by now, but doesn’t, is obviously a matter pretty close to Kim Wilde’s heart. It must be hard being regarded as sexy, eh Kim…
“I accept it, and I go along with it, and I try not to get too caught up in it”, she says with a self-conscious grin, “I can’t say that I’m not aware of it, but it’s not something that motivates me through my day!”
I swiftly change tack to discuss the methods that Kim and co use to make hit singles of the calibre of the calibre of the sublime “Kids in America”, the punchy “Water on glass”, and the current “Love blonde”.
At the sharp end, father Marty and brother Ricky handle writing and production chores, and Mrs Wilde is no slouch in steering her daughter through the shark-infested channels of the music business. The entire scam is enclosed under the umbrella of “Big M Productions”, handling all aspects of Kim Wilde’s career. The proof of corporate identity comes with Kim’s constant reference to “our album”, “our tour” and the brand new 24-track studio that “we are building” close to the family home in Hertfordshire. So what about it, Kim, is “Big M” the real star, with curvy little Kim as the cherry on top?
“It depends how important you think performers are,” decides Kim, after a pause for thought. “Randy Newman wrote great songs, but it took Dusty Springfield to make them come alive. Lieber and Stoller did the same for Motown. I accept my role at the moment, some people are a positive minus performing their own material. I accept my role, and I look forward to expanding it.
“I do have ambitions to do other things. I’d like to get involved in writing. It’ll be better when the studio is finished because I’ll be able to work on ideas. Up to now there hasn’t really been time to do anything, I’m so involved in various aspects of promoting my career. I haven’t really motivated myself into it, apart from being fairly lazy about it. It’s difficult at home too because it’s a very busy house, lots of coming and going, so it’s impossible to just organise enough privacy to write.”
With “Love blonde”, Kim Wilde is taking a step closer to pop credibility by taking her critics for a pretty subtle ride, so subtle in fact that the reasoning behind the song will be completely lost on them – something fills Ms Wilde with amusement.
“I get people saying thing like “Don’t you feel that you’re cheating the public by playing this sex symbol in order to sell records and get them into the charts?” You know, really heavy-duty stuff like that?
“Well this single is just two fingers up to people who want to get into arguments like that.” Her broad grin conveys her delight at the idea of Kim Wilde the artist poking gentle fun at Kim Wilde the image.
“When my dad told me that he wanted to write a song called ‘Love Blonde’, I just looked at him and said, you know, give me a break, I don’t think I could handle the sort of flack I’d get, making a record with a title like that. He just said, ‘look, either you do it, or you don’t’, and that was it. I could see what he was getting at.
“So I went out and bought the most over the top dress I could find, and I send it up as much as I dare because I’m not really that much of an extrovert performer in that way. It’s going to annoy an awful lot of people, I think it’s just fun, and I look upon my career as having as much fun as I can.”
If the song doesn’t annoy the image-conscious media, Kim’s current performance of it, in “that dress” will set the seal on it, particularly her little Stewartesque habit of showing the, ah, reverse side of her immaculate hips to the camera. My comment produces a slightly embarrassed laugh, confirmation of Kim’s claim that the sex-kitten really is strictly for play-time only. Beneath is a lady who nurtures ambitions to work with people like Elvis Costello and Elton John, but most importantly, she’s nobody’s fool. The tongue-in-cheek approach of “Love Blonde” embodies Kim Wilde’s career in the format and style of a single hit.
There’s nothing that says pop has to be serious. As long as your teeth are no problem, it’s quite okay to smile.