Kim Wilde spreads Eighties pop cheer

Singer and presenter talks to The Irish Times ahead of her appearance at the Radiodays Europe event in Dublin.

Pop singer Kim Wilde, the star turn at next month’s Radiodays Europe event in Dublin, isn’t a fan of waffle. “The times I have turned off the radio because someone didn’t know when to shut up… A few years ago, I was doing the school run and there was so much waffle on [BBC] Radio 1, I felt like throwing myself out of the car.”

Wilde, who will discuss her career and perform at the international industry conference on March 24th, has a long association with the medium, which she fondly recalls listening to as a child on long car journeys home from her nan’s home in Blackpool. It is also 33 years since her breakthrough hit, Kids in America , was first played on radio. “And it was radio that broke Kids in America .”

Last December, BBC Radio 2 playlisted her song Hey Mr Snowman , taken from her Christmas album Wilde Winter Songbook , her first release in the UK since the early 1990s. “I think it was the first time a record of mine had been on a playlist probably since 1988,” she says, describing herself as “chuffed” by the support. “I appreciate it more now.”

Although Wilde has been back performing and releasing records in continental European markets for most of the last decade, she had become known better at home for her gardening career.

Five years ago, however, she began hosting Kim Wilde’s Secret Songs on Magic 105.4 FM, and after the London station’s boozy Christmas party in 2012, Wilde and her brother Ricky were filmed spreading musical cheer on the train home. The popularity of the YouTube clip (2 million-plus hits ) was partly what inspired her to record the festive album.

Meanwhile, the Magic show attracts the highest ratings in the city for its Sunday afternoon time slot, and its success has prompted the creation of the Kim Wilde 80s Show, a pre-recorded nostalgia-fest produced for syndication in the international market. Four stations, including Germany’s RPR-1 and Berliner Rundfunk, have already signed up to the four-hour weekly helping of the syndicated show.

“I was approached by an independent producer and I though why not?” she says. In the 1980s she was building up her vinyl collection as well as making hits. “I feel like I have a certain entitlement to represent the Eighties both as an artist and as a record-buyer.”

Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Soft Cell all have a place on her own “favourites” list from the decade, while she also namechecks Belinda Carlisle, Heaven 17, ABC and Nik Kershaw. The latter appears on Wilde Winter Songbook , as does Rick Astley. “I know some of the artists from the period, so I can bring that to the table as well.”

Although “the whole decade can hold its head up high”, Wilde says it was the beginning, when she was in her early 20s, which was the most exciting musically. “I had just left art college, and all of us were listening to New Order and Gary Numan, and Spandau Ballet brought out To Cut A Long Story Short and the Human League were there,” she recalls.

Wilde says the people who send requests for ‘80s songs to her Magic FM show are yearning for a “feelgood factor” from when they were young and “had all their own hair”. So in 20 years’ time, will there be, say, Sound of the Noughties shows broadcasting throughout Europe for grown-up Millennials?

“That’s a really good question. Music has really changed a lot. Back in the 80s, a lot of music was timed and cut and made for radio play. It was about getting the point of the song across and then moving on to the next three-minute song. That has changed a bit, which is not such a bad thing. I think music has to evolve.”

But radio is adapting and people still love the medium, the You Came and Never Trust a Stranger singer says. “It’s hard to achieve that spontaneity on TV, and that intimacy is seldom achieved on TV.”

Good music radio doesn’t always require good broadcasters. Her local Hertfordshire station, Jack FM, only has a couple of presenters on its roster. “The rest is kind of cobbled together, but in a really cool way,” she says. “You could be listening to Bucks Fizz one moment, and Metallica the next.”