Happy anniversary: Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”

34 years ago today, one of the most memorable anthems to emerge from the UK during the ‘80s first hit record store shelves, kicking off Kim Wilde’s career in a big, big way.

“Kids in America” may have been Wilde’s first single, but she came into the music business with the right background: she was the daughter of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roller Marty Wilde. Unsurprisingly, it was family connections which helped pave the way for her own success, but what is surprising is that the first connection wasn’t her dad: she was discovered by legendary producer Mickie Most while she was recording vocals for a song by her brother, Ricky Wilde. Impressed by both her voice and her image, Most was interested in working with her, which led to Ricky and Marty collaborating on a song for Kim…and given this particular post, you’ve probably guessed what that song was.

For a song that’s become so readily associated with the ‘80s, it might surprise you to learn that “Kids in America” wasn’t nearly as big a hit in America as it was in England, only hitting #25 in the US. In the UK, however, it was a #2 hit for Wilde, and she was able to maintain that career momentum, scoring additional substantial hits with “Chequered Love” (#2), “Water on Glass” (#11), “Cambodia” (#12), and “View from a Bridge” (#16), none of which charted in the States at all. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1986 that Wilde was able to secure a big hit in America, although when she did, she managed to have one that was bigger than any she’d ever had at home: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” topped the Billboard Hot 100, whereas it only made it to #2 in the UK.

Still, although Wilde’s Supremes cover may have been her most successful US single, it’s in no way as anthemic as “Kids in America,” which earned a new life – and a new generation of fans – when The Muffs covered it for the soundtrack of Clueless in 1995, and it’s also been tackled by everyone from Alvin and the Chipmunks to Lagwagon, so it’s clearly got cross-demographic appeal. Meanwhile, Wilde may not have released a new studio album of original material since 2010’s Come Out and Play, but she’s not sitting idle: in 2013, she released a Christmas album, Wilde Winter Songbook, and she enters 2015, she’s already got several live dates booked for the year.