‘They thought I was a talentless bimbo’

It’s taken the Wilde child 10 years to prove she’s not her dad Marty’s puppet. With a new single out, It’s here, Kim Wilde tells Edwin Barnard just how tough it’s been.

Well, what was everyone supposed to think? Looking like she did, her father being who he is, it was surely too much to expect that she was anything more than a flash-in-the=pan? Or was it? After a roller coaster decade, Kim Wilde is finally getting her emotional – and professional – act together. And it shows.
Sitting in her favourite wine bar, a stone’s throw from her north London flat, the new Kim looks thinner and happier than she has done in a long time. She’s tidied up her public image and got down to writing her own songs.
‘People probably used to think of me as a talentless bimbo,’ she admits with disarming honesty. ‘I think if I’d seen a picture of myself in those days I’d have thought that, too.’ She laughs, realising how that sounds. ‘But I think they like me now. When I walk down the street, people say, “Hello Kim, how are you?”‘
It wasn’t like that 10 years ago, when she was launched onto the record-buying public with the help of her father, 60s rocker Marty, her record producer brother Ricki, and Mickie Most who, as head of RAK records, invested £250,000 of his label’s money in her career. Perhaps inevitably, she was an instant chart success. But as far as the music business was concerned, she was just the Wilde child – a puppet whose daddy pulled all the strings.
‘I was written off as a waste of time,’ she says ruefully. ‘I loved working with Ricki and Marty and I was very proud of their achievements. I still am, but at the time I was trying to find out who I was. My success was enormous, but it didn’t do much for my confidence.’
By the end of 1982, she had sold six million records, more than her father had done in his whole career. She could’ve burned out but that’s when her staying power started to show.
‘My family was a very stabilising influence on my life. Any time I started acting like an old tart they’d say, “Kim, come on.” I don’t remember acting like an old tart too often, although I am human!’ she says. ‘I saw what fame and fortune was through my father’s success and it didn’t seem very glamorous. Anyway, I didn’t get into it for the glamour, I got into it for the music.’ But if glamour doesn’t feature too highly in the Wilde approach, sexiness definitely does. In Europe, where she’s treated like royalty, the Germans have dubbed her ‘The Bardot of Rock’. It’s easy to see why. In the sexy little black numbers she usually wears, those pouting lips and that voluptuous figure say it all.
‘I can think of a lot worse people to be compared to,’ she says. ‘The Europeans are great for my ego. But the British aren’t starstruck, that’s what I love about them. And I’m exactly the same. Stardom, fame and money don’t impress me at all, which is why I’m not impressed with myself. But sometimes floating into France and being treated like a queen is great. I couldn’t do it all the time, though.’ Not that Kim has ever minded being an object of desire… in fact, she says she finds it perfectly understandable.
‘I understand because I have passions for people who are famous, women as well as men. It’s not limited to sex, it’s more to do with them as a person. I’ll see someone and think she’s gorgeous, amazing, beautiful, that what she’s giving out is just incredible. It could be Dawn French or it could be Kim Basinger. I don’t see it purely in terms of lust or sex, so I don’t feel awkward about it.’
That unselfconscious attitude certainly helped when she toured Europe with Michael Jackson a couple of years ago. ‘I heard he thought I was cute and stuff. I thought he was pretty cute, too. I wish I’d had time to get to know him better and find out what he’s really like. He loves kids and I totally understand that because I love being with kids, too. In fact, most of the time I prefer it.’
That doesn’t mean, however, that Kim can’t wait to have some of her own. Even with her 3Oth birthday looming in November, she isn’t going to be panicked into motherhood, or anything else.
‘I think my biological clock’s stopped,’ she jokes. ‘Or maybe it’s on hold. I’d love to have children but I’m not obsessed by it. It’s going to be brilliant being 30,’ she enthuses. ‘Thirty plus is great – just look at Kim Basinger. All of the best women are thirty something.’
Her conviction that, at 29, she’s already gone through the roller coaster of life and things are finally settling down for her now, helps too.
‘I’ve been through the usual pain of going out with the wrong guy and breaking up and living alone and liking it, then hating it, and having success and losing that and having it back again – that’s when the uncertainties of life got to me,’ she explains.
‘I didn’t like the way it was so up and down. I was unsettled emotionally and physically and I was fed up with it, to tell you the truth. Now the bumps have gone, my life and my outlook have calmed down quite a lot. ‘In the past there were times when I wasn’t very interested whether I really lived life or not,’ she confesses. ‘There were moments when I thought, “Is it really worth it?” Now I know it’s just a part of growing up. You have to go through hell, that’s for sure, but I feel now that I’m closer to heaven than I’ve ever been.’
Some of that new-found happiness comes down to finding a man she feels comfortable with. She’s been seeing quitea lot of Calvin Hayes recently, keyboard player with the pop group Johnny Hates Jazz and, coincidentally, Mickie Most’s son.
‘But it’s not just because I’m going out with Calvin or that I’ve got a nice family or a few hit records. It’s due to a lot of things,’ she explains. One of them, she says, is her realisation that there’s no point in worrying about the future.
‘I’d spent years just running away from lots of things, or running around in circles. Always running,’ she remembers. ‘And I was concerned about the future. It took me years to really have faith in the future rather than see it as an enemy. I suppose I never knew life was going to be quite so hard, emotionally. It was all so easy until the first year of my career. Then it got very heavy, “Why am I here?” and “I’m lonely”, all that sort of stuff. Now I realise it was just a state of mind.’
A few years ago her disillusionment got so bad she couldn’t even bring herseJf to write a love song. There were one or two on my album, Close, which I just couldn’t write. I had to ask my father, who’s been happily married to my mum, Joyce, for over 30 years, to co-write them with me. I said, “Dad, you’re more in love than I’ll ever be.” Now, I’m really much more comfortable with the idea that people are good for each other.’
That’s not the only thing Kim’s learnt about love. She’s also discovered that it’s something she can live without, if she has to.
‘I had many more relationships before I was famous – I certainly ran the gauntlet in those days – enough to know what I was missing out on when I wasn’t with anyone, which wasn’t that much. I’ve not done too badly, though,’ she says cheerfully. ‘I’m not the sort of girl who always needs to have a guy around. I’ve even lived alone for quite a few years.’
Kim Wilde can afford to smile. She’s proved her staying power in a world where stardom can be over by lunchtime. And now she’s even won the approval of her harshest critic… herself.
‘I really like myself at the moment and there have been plenty of times when I couldn’t say that. At last I feel like I am doing all right. Well,’ she adds, laughing, ‘all right enough for me.’