“New technologies created such a musically enduring decade”

The longing for nostalgia is a curious phenomenon that should be studied by the student of psychology. Many of us are still drawn to the music that coloured our teenage years. Maybe that’s why a whole industry came to be, leading to Kim Wilde appearing n the Kursaal in Oostende. Not just for ‘Kids in America’.

A beautiful blonde being stared at through the blinds by a young man with a flashlight in his hand. “I search for the beat in this dirty town”, she sings in the first verse. They are the opening scenes of the iconic debut single ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde, which delivered her a big hit in the spring of 1981 and starting a career that would give her loads of hits during the 1980’s. ‘Chequered love’, ‘Cambodia’, ‘View from a Bridge’, ‘Love blonde’, ‘You keep me hangin’ on’ (a version of the classic by Diana Ross & The Supremes) that gave a her a number 1 hit in the United States, her biggest hit, ‘Never trust a Stranger’ and ‘Four Letter Word’.

Starting in the 1990’s the stream of hits dried up. Kim Wilde, born as Kim Smith, started a new career. In February 1996 she played Mrs. Walker in London’s West End musical production ‘Tommy’. She played with Hal Fowler. They also clicked off stage. They married and had two children which they gave the beautiful names Harry Tristand and Rose Elisabeth.

In 2003 Wilde visited the charts once more. Together with Nena – another poster girl from the Eighties – she had a big hit in our region with ‘Anyplace, anywhere, anytime’.

New electronic possibilities

Because she wanted to raise her children healthily, she developed a passion for horticulture. The bosses of Channel 4 and BBC also noticed, and they made programmes with her, showing her talent as a gardener. Meanwhile she kept making music, in the studio and on stage. This brings her to the Kursaal in Oostende in November. Her brother Ricky, who has been her musical right hand since the beginning of her career, also comes along.

“We don’t just play songs from the 1980’s, but also from the later period of my career, along with some covers that are challenging. Which ones? That should be a surprise.”

The number of artists and bands from the 1980’s that still perform is hard to keep up with. A few years ago the magazine Classic Pop was launched, showing Eighties artists every months. Is all this credited to nostalgia or was this decade so special musically?
Musically the 1980’s are a period of transition. New technologies opened new doors. My brother also made use of that. He felt like a kid in a sweets shop. Just like other producers this new toys gave him new possibilities to create an electronic sound together with the classic trio of guitar bass and drums, making a great impact on millions of pop lovers. This explains the success of Human League, Heaven 17, amongst others, but also ourselves.

It is surprising that not just people from my own generation come to the gigs, but also younger people. Thanks to social media and YouTube that have broadened the availability of music for a larger audience. It’s also noticeable that the current rock and pop music has lots of influences from the 1980’s. A band like The Killers, which I saw recently, but also Muse lean on the music from those days.

We are not sitting still ourselves. Ricky and me have worked on an album that should see the light of day in spring next year. Musically it’s a mixture of technology and classic instruments. But first there is this crazy Christmas single which we have recorded with the thrashmetal group Lawnmower Deth.

What do you think of the pop music which is being made these days?
I am not the nostalgic type that sticks to the 1980’s. I love those times, but I like music from the 1960’s as well. There was a lot of strength in pop from those times. The music was very eclectic, but that’s also true for the pop and (glam)rock from the 1970’s. I have a weak spot for female singer-songwriters like Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, but also for Kraftwerk and Mike Oldfield. During my childhood my father (Marty Wilde, who was part of the first wave of British pop artists – ed.) played classical music a lot, especially by Rachmaninov and Tsjaikovski.

Through the years many acts have recorded your songs: from Lasgo to Atomic Kitten and from Bloodhound Gang to Foo Fighters. What is your favourite cover version?
I like the version of ‘Kids in America’ by the Foo Fighters, but they didn’t do it as well as the one by Lawnmower Deth (laughs). It reflected all the energy and pleasure we invested in that song. I played with them on Download, a respected metal festival in Donington Park. They didn’t expect to see me there (laughs).

Why are you so passioned about gardening?
it’s a question of yin and yang, the male and the female. If music is yang, then yin is being in the garden. The outdours give you resilience. That’s why I do something in the garden every day. Between all the green you feel modest. A garden has something of a fairy tale, giving me inspiration. It also gives you insight about the human existence.
There’s an element of therapy in it too. Many have taken to mindfulness. As if they understand that the yin is also important in our lives.