Date: 11 October 2003
Originally published in: Trouw (Netherlands)
Written by: Harmen van Dijk
Around 1983 they were the coolest girls in the world: Nena and Kim Wilde. The dark German had a world hit with ’99 Luftballons’ while the blonde British sang about ‘Kids in America’. Now, 20 years on, they sing together.
They didn’t expect that anyone was waiting for it, but to their great surprise thay have released a megahit. ‘Anyplace, anywhere, anytime’, a cover of an old song by Nena, is second place in the Mega-top 100, after a triumphant tour across German speaking countries.
That’s something else than gardening, Kim Wilde (42) must have thought. Because during the past eight years the singer has mainly been tending to hortensia’s, roses and the compost heap in her own back yard. She started with it after getting frustrated with her own career – better than drinking and bingeing on food – but got more and more interested in it. Seven years ago she even decided to go back to school to learn the latin names of her plants and then even got a gardening column in the newspaper The Guardian. Using the apt name ‘Wilde side’ she advises readers about the right mix of seedlings for the grass and endless possibilities of lavender.
In fact she was very satisfied with her husband Hal (‘I never thought I’d be able to have stable relationship’) and her two kids (Harry and Rose) in their converted barn on the English countryside. But the itch stayed. When the eighties were hip again a couple of years ago, she performed with some of her old songs again. And that attention for her felt good, she honestly admits. She may even record a new cd again.
Nena never broke as rigourously with the music business as KIm did. When the band Nena fell apart in 1987, Nena continued solo. She fell pregnant and took a break. In 1988 she gave birth to a handicapped son, Christopher, who died a few months after that. She wrote about this sadness in a song, ‘Wunder gescheh’n’ which was received well in Germany. Nena had four more children, twins Saskias and Larissa, Samuel and Simeon. That encouraged her to record children’s songs.
When the 20 year jubilee of her 99 balloons comes close, she thinks, “Why would I have other people cover my songs, I’ll just do it myself”. She meets Kim Wilde during a party in Berlin.
Nena is hot in Germany now. There is no talkshow where she hasn’t been, no concert hall where she hasn’t played. Kim Wilde: “It’s true, in Germany she is hotter than Madonna at the moment”. With her 43 years Nena is even on the cover of the men’s magazine Maxim and her friend Philip is 12 years younger than she is. Everyone wants to know how she managed to preserve herself so well. “I get a lot of exercise, eat healthy, but I also like to smoke. I just know when it is time to quit again”, she says. She can even enjoy softdrugs sometimes. But all in moderation.
One of the four men with whom she formed the band Nena has died of a liver disease last year. “He has drunk himself to death”, she says about Carlo Karges, the composer of 99 Luftballons.
With the other three band members she still has good contact. They all live in Berlin. One time they performed together live on stage, but the men are quite happy to let Nena relive her past fame once more.