Date: 18 September 2006
Originally published in: BN De Stem (Netherlands)
Written by: Peter Bruyn
Kim Wilde is back. Three years after the successful duet ‘Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime’ with her German colleague Nena the British pop candyfloss decided to re-record old hits, combined with fresh tracks.
The new cd is now released with the title ‘Never say never’. The 45-year old singer explains why she thinks she can still be one of the ‘Kids in America’. The way Kim sits there, on a black bench in the office of her record company – hair platinum blonde, lips red, black nails, the age firmly whiped off her face and a leg sticking out from under her coat just under her thigh – the associations are undeniable. The sensual, slightly overweight charm Kim had has disappeared. She now exudes something more cheap.
Wilde has come to the Netherlands for interviews, because she has a new record. The audience was already teased by a new version of the Steppenwolf classic ‘Born to be wild’ and especially the duet ‘Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime’ with Nena, reaching the top of the charts everywhere in Europe.
“My new album has come as the consequence of that success”, the former teenage idol says. “I saw how much success Nena had with new recordings of her old hits, such as ’99 Luftballons’. I participated in ’80s revival tours with artists like Human League and Paul Young. I noticed how much fun I had singing those songs again. And how enthusiastic the audiences were, responding to that.”
And so the album ‘Never say never’ came about, filled with old hits for one part and with freshly made new songs for the other part. But didn’t Kim feel the need to present herself with more mature material after all these years, after getting married and having two children? Even ‘We’re the kids in America’ she sings again. It could be about her own children.
“Yes, I must admit that I hesitated about that song. When I stepped out of the music business ten years ago, I was especially glad not to have to sing that song anymore. But during the revival shows the audiences went crazy when I sang it. And producer Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen (also the man behind Nena’s renewed success) wanted to do it. ‘Give me one reason why I should re-record it’, I said. He answered: ‘Just listen’.”
“He let me hear his new arrangement. I still wasn’t convinced. Then we decided to make it a duet, singing it together with Charlotte Hatherley from Ash. She is 25 and grew up with this song. That made it feel good for me.”
‘Kids in America’ was the song that started it all for Kim Wilde a quarter of a century ago. Her father is pop singer Marty Wilde – real name Reginald Smith – who had a handfull of hits around 1960. Joyce Baker, one of the Vernons Girls, a girlpop-trio in the Liverpool of the fifties, is her mother. When Kim left art college in 1979 her younger brother Ricky was already active as studio musician. In order to help Kim to some money, he asked her as a background singer for his projects.
It was during one of these sessions that studio boss Mickie Most heard her sing and spontaneously proposed to let her make a record under her own name. “He said he still had a few songs lying around”, the singer remembers. “But Ricky didn’t want that to happen. He wanted to write something for me himself. We lived at our parents’ house and I remember that Ricky was busy all night in his little home studio, with his rhythm box and synthesizers. The next morning he returned to Mickie Most with ‘Kids in America’.
The rest is pop history for those over-40’s who watched Toppop or listened to Radio 3. Until summer 1983 a half dozen of top 10 followed: ‘Chequered love’, ‘Cambodia’, ‘Love blonde’. Every one of them smart mixes of new wave with bubblegum pop in trendy synth arrangements. When the success seemed to slow down mid-1980’s, a cover of the Supremes classic ‘You keep me hangin’ on’ became a number one hit in the USA. “But that was it. I never had a breakthrough in America”.
Kim changed her image. Went the sexy middle of the road way, had a short revival in 1988 with hits like ‘Never trust a stranger’ and ‘Four letter word’. And that was it. New records failed. Although Kim had already sold so much, that she was Britain’s most successful female solo singer.
In the early nineties she seemed destined for a single fare towards revival shows. But Kim took her fate in her own hands. She got married, had two children and – believe it or now – started gardening. She turned out to be a good gardener: she was asked to present gardening programmes for BBC Television. She wrote two books – of which one is also translated into Dutch. And she won a prestigious award in the ‘Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show’.
“Gardening is first and foremost for my own personal life. But of course there are similarities with music. There are people who’s life revolves around their garden, like musicians are always preoccupied with their latest album. It’s the same kind of ego’s, the same creative energy. The same passion.”
Why doesn’t she continue with that? Why revive the old hits? Probably it’s just an inevitability. A family thing. It’s in the genes. Probably Kim Smith is just ‘Born to be Wilde’.