Date: 1 March 2018
Originally published in: Intro (Germany)
Written by: Julia Brummert
“I searched for the beat in this dirty town” – who can’t identify with this line? Julia Brummert met Kim Wilde and let her tell the history behind the 37 year old hit ‘Kids in America’. Also Wilde gave away which cover version is her favourite.
The song was recorded in 1980. I was 18, my brother Ricky 17. He’d left school and had begun to record a few demos of some of his own songs. He went down to a few labels and landed with RAK Records, led by Mickie Most. He’d produced many classic hits and worked amongst others with the Animals. Mickie heard that Ricky’s demos were something special and invited him back. I worked myself in and asked Ricky if I could perhaps sing the backing vocals. It seemed a good possibility for me to make some money. The next time with Mickie I went along – and looked good. Ricky introduced me and asked if it was okay to sing backing vocals. Mickie proposed to write some songs for me, if I could sing so well. People like Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman wrote many hits, for instance for Suzi Quatro. Mickie wanted me to work with them and that awakened the ambition of my brother.
Ricky went home, planning to write the biggest pop song ever. The whole weekend he was in his room and made this sound with his Wasp synthesizer. It was annoying, but I couldn’t foresee that he worked on ‘Kids in America’ and he would write such a hit. Ricky wanted to bring together all the sounds he loved, the synths of Ultravox, the punk from The Clash and of course pop. Ricky asked my dad to write lyrics for his song. I still wonder to this day why he didn’t ask me.
It took a year for ‘Kids in America’ to be released. It sold over 60.000 copies on one day. The people who were responsible for the British charts took the song out of the chart because they thought Mickie, who was really rich at the time, had bought all these singles. It broke our heart, because the single really was doing that well. They relented in the end and we landed on number 2 in the charts, behind Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Green door’.
My relationship with the song is similar to a love story. After 20 years I was tired, I’d sung ‘Kids in America’ so many times. In my mid-30s I went away from the music business and founded a family. One day I performed at a charity concert and covered Abba songs together with other musicians. They wanted me to play ‘Kids in America’ again, and I was talked into it. The response was incredible, and I fell in love with the song all over again.
There are many cover versions and I love that. I like the one by Lawnmower Deth the most. They are a thrash-metal-band. They had similar fun with the song that we had in the early Eighties. Many bands have covered the song, because they hope to make money with it. With Lawnmower Deth it’s different, and I love to play ‘Kids in America’ with them. I also love the fact that the song can be heard on various soundtracks, such as ‘Clueless’. It has become such an iconic song – and it’s mine!