UFO keep me hangin’ on

Eighties icon Kim Wilde’s new album could earn her a place in the charts for the first time in three decades… and it’s all down to an alien encounter

She was the British Debbie Harry who supported Michael Jackson and David Bowie and had an American No1 as well as a string of British hits in the 80s.

Now Kim Wilde, 57, who had a second career as a TV gardener for the BBC, is back with a poptastic album about her brush with aliens and her first full UK tour since 1982. The comeback will evoke memories of the sultry blonde sex symbol who found fame with 1981 debut Kids in America, which she followed with timeless new wave classics like Chequered Love, Water on Glass, Cambodia and View from a Bridge.

But for Kim, one of the keys to fame was never to buy too much into her public image. She said: “Of course I knew the effect I was having as a sex symbol but I never took myself very seriously when I played up to it, which I did a lot. The only pressure these days is from myself as I try to age gracefully but with a proper amount of dare and humour.”

Fans weren’t the only ones to take notice of Kim, who topped the US charts with a reworked version of The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hangin’ On in 1986. Michael Jackson, at the time the biggest superstar on the planet, invited her to support him on his 1988 Bad tour in Europe, performing on 36 shows.

She said: “I only met him briefly backstage for a publicity photograph while in Munich. He seemed very sweet and shy, sadly not in the mood for chatting, but then again he was just about to perform for hundreds of thousands of people. My little brother and sister who were nine and seven at the time, met him before I did and went on stage with him and a small gang of children to sing and dance along to Bad at the concert in Rotterdam, it was magical.”

Kim also supported David Bowie across Europe on his Greatest Hits tour in 1990. As a huge fan, she was hoping to hit it off with the Thin White Duke – but he only had eyes for future wife Iman. Kim said: “On several occasions he’d pop his head into my dressing room to wish me a good show, before heading off to drink strong coffee and wow the crowds. I had been a huge fan since Hunky Dory (in 1971), and loved singing along to all his incredible hits every night. I remember I had a massive crush on him but he was falling madly in love with Iman at the time so I didn’t stand a chance.”

While she never toured with Blondie, she has met Debbie Harry – the singer whose look and style she emulated at the start of her career. She said: “I met Debbie about five years ago at a festival in Germany. She was walking towards me as I came off stage and congratulated me on a great gig. Debbie Harry inspired me to go blonde while I was at art college and has inspired songs on my new album too. She’s a legend in every sense of the word and I adore her.”

Kim is the eldest child of 50s rocker Marty Wilde and, after studying at art college, followed her dad’s career path. Her debut Kids in America was written by her dad and brother Ricky, who also produced the single – beginning a musical relationship with her sibling which has lasted ever since. The track is a timeless classic and has been covered by the Foo Fighters, as well as featuring on video game Grand Theft Auto.

“My favourite cover,” said Kim, “is by Lawnmower Deth, who did a thrash metal version in 1991.” Kim remembers the early 80s with great fondness. She said: “I loved it. Sometimes growing up in public was a bit tough but I’m made of tougher stuff.”

While she may have appeared crawling around in the jungle dirt in the video for Cambodia, Kim didn’t have to wear next to nothing like today’s young female pop stars. But she still believes the skimpily-dressed stars are serving as role models for younger fans. She said: “Rihanna and Miley (Cyrus) look incredibly toned and fit to me – a lot of young people would do well to aim to be as healthy in this age of obesity.”

What does she think about another aspect of modern pop music – reality shows such as The X Factor?
“I expect I would have thought about (entering),” Kim said. “Sometimes it is a really good thing to jump in at the deep end. You invariably come up stronger, whatever the outcome.”

It’s nearly three decades since she last had a UK top 10 album, 1988’s Close, but there’s a real buzz about Here Come The Aliens, which is released next week. Radio 2 made the album’s first single Pop Don’t Stop record of the week. Kim said: “I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to hear our record on the radio again.”

Ricky duets on the tune and while other musical siblings in The Kinks and Oasis are famous for falling out, he and Kim have been pals and music partners for four decades. She added: “We virtually work telepathically in the studio. Falling out is a lazy way of dealing with relationships, especially with those you love – sometimes you’ve just got to put in the extra hours.”

They began working on Here Come The Aliens in 2014 after Kim had her own close encounter. She said: “The album is a direct response to an encounter I had in 2009 in Hertfordshire, where I live. I was in our garden and looked up into the sky and saw phenomenal lights, at times static and at other times moving unbelievably fast.
Locals also witnessed this happening and the story made our local paper. I am convinced we are not alone and that it is just a matter of time before we have confirmation of that.”

Fans will get to hear the new album when Kim goes on her first major UK tour since 1982, although she’s been playing live shows such as Rewind since 2001. She said: “I’ve played Rewind at Scone Palace several times and was overwhelmed by the Scottish fans’ reaction. This tour is my first for 30 years and a visit to Scotland is long overdue – but a Kim Wilde gig anywhere is long overdue. I remember driving up to Scotland with my dad and asking for porridge at the B&B where we stayed and being so surprised it had salt in it.”

Mention of the Scottish scenery turns talk to her second love: gardening. It was when the mum of two was pregnant with her first child, and she decided to create a garden for her family, that she became green fingered. Kim appeared on BBC’s Garden Invaders and in 2005 won a gold award at Chelsea Flower Show.

She said: “I still love gardening. It began as a kind of therapy for me, before becoming a career of sorts, but has now returned to a private passion where I prefer it to be.”

Here Come The Aliens is out on March 16. Kim plays the Old Fruit Market in Glasgow on April 2.