Date: 15 November 1986
Originally published in: No. 1 (UK)
Written by: Mark Booker
Backstage at the Des O’Connor Show seems hardly the place to herald the return to form of one of pop’s Big Names from the early 80s.
But that is where Kim Wilde is to be found, sitting comfortably and calmly in her dressing room, just an hour away from performing live in front of millions of armchair fans, and looking and feeling a lot happier than she has done for years.
And it’s not just because she’s back in the Top Ten with ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ either.
When, in 1981, the 20-year-old Kim had a Number Two hit with her first single ‘Kids in America’, and then followed that with hit after hit, it seemed that nothing could go wrong for the pouting blonde daughter of famous 50s pop crooner Marty Wilde. Songs were written, arrangements wer made, and all young Kim had to do was stand up and open her mouth to rake in lots of money.
But then something, no one knows what, went wrong. Brother Rick still wrote the songs, Kim still sang them in that rough gritty style of hers, but the public no longer thronged to buy them. In short, her records didn’t sell anymore.
The slide became drastic enough for Kim to enlist the help of dynamic image shapers XL, the company responsible for the Frankie and Pet Shop Boys images. “I got involved with them in a very high-visual image type project. It was a sort of cartoon-like, Barbarella-ish image, quite sexy and strong, but it didn’t actually turn out quite right.
“You see it was only meant to be for one single, but my record company decided to put the shots on the album cover, and it just confused the public. It backfired really.”
Lesser people may have called it a day there, but not Kim Wilde. ln the space of a few years Klm has transformed herseif from falled pop puppet to Pop Princess Recrowned. And although she’s retalned the services of one of the hands that used to feed her, brother Rick, she feels that it’s a titie she thoroughly deserves.
“Because of my success I spent the first two years of my career in an aeroplane or a hotel room,” she remembers, “and all the time I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could write’. But 1 just talked myself into thinking that 1 couldn’t so I never tried! 1 didn’t want to confirm my suspicions that 1 was totally useless musicaily.”
Two years on pop’s perphery, however, can change a lot of things. Kim threw herself headlong into tapping her own creativity, relying on her massive European following for that vital injection of appreciation to the ego for sustenance. The result is her new album ‘Another Step’, almost entirely self-penned, co-written or produced by Kim Wilde.
And although Klm’s current hit isn’t hers at all but a version of an old Supremes classic, she still believes she’s responsible for the resurrection of her career.
“It was never enough for me to just be a pop personality,” she says. “I used to get very het up and terribly defensive about a lot of aspects of my career, and a lot of lt had to do with the fact that I was an uncreative person myseif which used to really bite hard. I was just fortunate, in a way, that I had the tlme to do something about it.”
At the moment Kim’s still inding her feet in the charts again, six years after her first visit. Many of the names who shared success with her first time around are no longer with us now, names like Culture Club, Wham! and Madness, and they’ve been replaced by some most unllkely chart-toppers. Not being a TV fan, Klm is none too pleased at havlng to share the charts with half of the EastEnders cast, referring to them as one of the “blg embarrassments” that occur from time to time in pop.
Ironically though, she’ll also have Sam Fox, who as a schoolgirl played merry hell to have a “Kim Wilde haircut” ilke her mates, as competition.
“1 thought she was going to be another big embarrassment, big being the operatlve word, before I heard her records, but since I’ve heard them in the ciubs I’ve quite enjoyed them,” enthuses Kim.
Well they do say that imitatlon is the sincerest form… but she won’t be doing a Sam Fox and branching out lnto other areas for a while.
Although she’s had several offers for parts in films, Kim’s not wild about any of the scripts she’s seen so far and is going to wait for exactly the right one. And Page 3’s definitely out because “it might look good covered up but in the flesh it’s not exactly Bo Derek!”
Ahhh, modest too… so what exactly is next then Kim?
“I’m just going to continue with music, I’d iike to get invoIved in writing muslc for fiims, but as iong as it’s music ln a very creative and stimulatlng way. Ever since I’ve become more involved at a more physical level, writing, producing and feeling really great about it, I just have more fun with it. I want to write loads of hit records, not just for myself but for other people.”
And to think that Kim hadn’t written a word until a couple of years ago, that’s quite some change of heart.
“When things started going wrong I was really horrified that fame was something that I was going to miss terribly, and that I wasn’t going to be able to cope without it. But in fact it hasn’t been like that at all.
“I think that’s why I feel happier about everything. It’s not the fame I’m after, it’s being involved in this crazy business… it’s well, it’s really what I want to do!”