Driven Wilde By ’80s Nostalgia

Pop diva Kim Wilde chats with Cyclone about receiving flowers and champagne from David Bowie, her musical family and feeling the pull of ’80s nostalgia.

Those who caught ’80s New Wave starlet Kim Wilde on 2013’s Australian tour with Nik Kershaw were wowed by her powerful performance – the Brit worthy of the title ‘pop diva’. “A lot of it’s to do with the fact that I have done an awful lot of live work in the last ten, 15 years – more in the last ten, 15 years than I did during the ’80s, that’s for sure,” Wilde admits. “The ’80s was a really great time for miming on shows like Top Of The Pops!”

The London native opened for her hero David Bowie on 1990s hits-based Sound + Vision Tour, recalling him as surprisingly personable (she’d previously supported a remote Michael Jackson). “A couple of times he’d just pop his head in, wish me luck for the show,” Wilde shares. “When I arrived, the first gig, there was a lovely bunch of flowers and a bottle of champagne. I know obviously his PA had done stuff like that, but it was nice. It didn’t have to happen – and you know that he would have made sure it did. So, yeah, very down-to-earth, lovely bloke.”

Wilde will return here in November, this time co-headlining with Howard Jones – the pair “a class act”. She is considering a Bowie tribute, having recorded Kooks for 2011’s covers album Snapshots as a duet with her husband Hal Fowler, a music theatre actor. “It might be something I could do with Howard!”

The daughter of ’50s rocker Marty Wilde (born Reginald Smith), Kim’s career was launched by accident. Younger brother Ricky Wilde, a former teenybop star, cut demos with her on backing vocals – attracting the attention of RAK Records boss Mickie Most. With Marty’s help, Ricky wrote Kim’s Blondie-esque breakthrough Kids In America. Ricky became Kim’s chief writer, producer and collaborator – the ‘Wildes’ now a pop dynasty. Though remembered as a singles artist, Wilde was trailblazing – the synthwave Cambodia, View From A Bridge and Child Come Away still sound cutting-edge today. She attributes this electronic experimentation to Ricky – “a massive fan” of The Human League, Gary Numan and Kraftwerk. Nonetheless, Wilde’s biggest success came with her hi-NRG take on The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hangin’ On – a US #1.

The American Rick Nowels, Lana Del Rey’s future cohort, orchestrated what would be Wilde’s final original hit – 1992’s guitary Love Is Holy. “He’s an incredible talent,” Wilde enthuses. “I’ve never met anyone with quite so much energy.” Wilde staged another reinvention with 1995’s swingbeat album Now & Forever – only it floundered. She quit music to raise a family, re-emerging as a (celebrity) gardener. But Wilde was eventually lured back into music by surging ’80s nostalgia. She last put out a quirky festive album, Wilde Winter Songbook, featuring both a remake of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal and Rick Astley cameoing on Winter Wonderland. “I was very inspired by Tracey Thorn from Everything But The Girl,” Wilde says. “She did an album [Tinsel And Lights] that was Christmas-inspired and she made it her own. She didn’t go down any obvious roads. I felt inspired to do the same.”

Wilde is working on a record for 2017. “I’m really proud and really excited about it! I think anyone who is into what I do, and has been, will love this album. I’ve got great hopes for how it’s going to get received.”