Date: 1 November 2020
Originally published in: Eighth Day Magazine (UK)
Written by: Alice Jones-Rodgers
In the late 1950s, Marty Wilde (born Reginald Smith on 15th April 1939) was the ultimate pop star, a teenage heart-throb and one of the first amongst a generation to emulate the American rock ‘n’ roll craze that was infiltrating the airwaves throughout the United Kingdom.
After being discovered by pop impresario Larry Parnes whilst performing under the name Reg Patterson in 1957, between mid-1958 and late01959 he was a seemingly unstoppable force on the UK hit parade, scoring five top ten hits with his backing group, the Wildcats. These hits included the timeless ‘A Teenager in Love’, which peaked at number two in May 1959.
Marty’s reign as a leading teen pop idol was brought to an end when he met and fell in love with Joyce Baker, one sixteenth of the all-female Liverpudlian vocal group The Vernon Girls. At his time, pop stars having love interests was enough of a tabloid taboo, but when Marty and Joyce married on 2nd December 1959, it was nothing short of a press sensation. Joyce gave birth to the couple’s first child, Kim on 18th November 1960.
For much of the sixties, Marty largely moved into all-round entertainment and could be seen apearing as Conrad Birdie in the original West End production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, which ran for 268 performances from July 1961 onwards. During this period, he also appeared in several films, including the Michael Carreras and Alan Klein written 1963 pop musical ‘What a Crazy World’. Later in the decade, he returned to his first love, music, and became a go-to songwriter and in 1968 alone, he and co-writer Ronnie Scott (not the jazz musician) scored three UK top ten hits with ‘Jesamine’, a one hit wonder for The Casuals (number 2); ‘I’m a Tiger’, performed by Lulu (number 9) and ‘Ice in the Sun’, the second charting single by Status Quo (number 7). The very same year saw his self-performed song ‘Abergavenny’ become a top ten hit all over Europe and in Australia.
The seventies would find Marty experimenting with the glam rock genre, but after this foray proved less successful, he began working with his son Ricky (born less than a year after Kim). At the age of eleven in 1972, Ricky had had some success as a pop performer himself, giving us the lost classic single ‘I am an Astronaut’ and even appearing alongside Donny Osmond on the cover of Look-in magazine under the headline “Is Ricky Wilde the New Donny?” in June 1973. By this point, Ricky had traded life as a pop star for a career behind the scenes, already showing his considerable talents as a songwriter and producer.
Fast forward to 1980 and the now nineteen/twenty-year-old Kim was also gearing up to take the music world by storm and with help from her Dad and brother as a writing and production tour-de-force, became one of the decade’s ultimate pop stars, racking up eight classic top ten hits, starting with the era-defining ‘Kids in America’ in January 1981. ‘Kids in America’ peaked at number two in the UK, became a top 30 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as a top ten hit in Australia and topped the singles chart in Finland.
Just when you thought that the Wilde family couldn’t deliver any more talent, Roxanne “Roxy” Wilde, born 1979 and named after The Police’s 1978 breakthrough single, has been making waves in the music industry for the last two decades. Roxy and her band, which became known as Dimestars, signed with Polydor Records in 1999 and went on to support Kylie Minogue during her 2001 tour. After Dimestars split in 2002, she appeared as a backing vocalist on every Kylie tour for eleven years, has also toured with the likes of Ellie Goulding and Altered Images vocalist Clare Grogan and is a great pop artist in her own right.
Marty’s new album, ‘Running Together’ is quite simply one of the greatest musical achievements of 2020. Now in his eighth decade in the music industry, ‘Running Together’ is not only the 81-year-old’s first ever completely self-penned collection of songs, but it is also the first time that he, Kim and Roxy have been brought together on one album. Not only that, but Ricky is still very much part of the Wildes’ pop magic, appearing as co-writer and producer.
Just some of the many highlights on this stunning 15-track album include a reworked version of Kim’s 1981 number 12 hit ‘Cambodia’ (‘Select’, 1982), the single ’60’s World’, which is currently working its way up the United DJs Heritage Chart and the emotive, tear-jerking finale ‘Eddie’, a tribute to Marty’s friend Eddie Cochran, who died in a road accident in 1960.
Upon hearing ‘Running Together’, the album instantly became a contender for our Album of the Year, which will be announced in next month’s Christmas Spectacular and we got in touch with Marty, Kim and Roxy to conduct the following, very special, eight-decade-spanning interview.
Firstly, hello Marty, Kim and Roxy and thank you for agreeing to our interview. This interview, being with three members of one family, each aged twenty years apart, is a first for us, but the reason for it, the stunning new album ‘Running Together’ is a first for all of you, being the first time you have all appeared on one record. Could we start by asking how the idea for you all to collaborate on ‘Running Together’ came about?
Marty: ‘Running Together’ started forming in my mind around about 2017 as I had been asked to start a charity running event and when I saw people running together, I thought how that physical engagement wasn’t dissimilar with peoples’ involvement with each other, and thus the idea for an album was born, and called ‘Running Together’.
Marty, you were discovered by music impresario Larry Parnes whilst performing at London’s Condor Club under the name Reg Patterson way back in 1957 and just as he did with Billy Fury, Duffy Power, Dickie Pride, Vince Eager, Johnny Gentle, Georgie Fame, et al, he rechristened you Marty Wilde. What were your first impressions of Parnes and what was he like to work with?
Marty: My impressions of Larry were formed early on, when I quickly realised he knew much more about making an artist famous and making money for himself than he did about music and fashion. He decided that I should wear a white silk pyjama type stage outfit for one of my early shows, and one in particular for a show I performed at the Elephant and Castle. I was so embarrassed and never allowed him to advise me on dress sense again, but I will say his lack of knowledge of music and dress sense never got in the way of my career again, and although, as a typical strong thinking manager, he would have made many enemies I’m sure in the industry, strangely enough, to me, he was wonderful and without Larry, I would never have been the star I became.
What are your favourite memories of those days, specifically between mid-1958 and late-1959, when you became one of the UK’s leading rock ‘n’ roll singers and a teenage heart-throb and at that point in time, could you ever have imagined that 63 years after you first came to prominence, you would still be such a popular presence in the music industry?
Marty: One of my favourite memories was having breakfast in a North East boarding house, when one of my musicians who I had sent to get the music tabloids opened up one of the music papers in front of me so it covered my breakfast, and said excitedly, ‘Endless Sleep’  is in the charts! And that was to be my first major hit that fired up my career. I could never have imagined at that young age, when I was 17, that I would reach this age that I have reached and still be wanted by the public and the industry, although I must add, I always said – even at that young age, that Rock ‘n’ Roll and the influence that it had on world music would last for many decades.
The late-fifties ae represented on ‘Running Together’ with not just one of our many favourites, ‘Rockabilly Dreams’, but also the closing track, ‘Eddie’, about your friend, Eddie Cochran, whom you worked with back then. What are your memories of Eddie, both on a professional and personal level and could you tell us a bit about how you came to put your obvious love and respect for the great man into a song all these years after his tragic death in a road accident on 17th April 1960?
Marty: Working with Eddie was without doubt one of the highlights of my career, as he was such a wonderful artist to work with – charismatic, yet modest about his talents and full of fun and life. All of us young Rock ‘n’ Roll artists were totally in awe of him, but not once did he ever act conceitedly to any of us, and really to me, he just was one of the boys, and someone who you could laugh with, or discuss different styles of music from around the world, which of course showed in his guitar playing, as he was an excellent country picker as well as a Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarist.
Of course, ‘Running Together’ features a wonderful newly recorded version of the 1981 Kim single ‘Cambodia’ (‘Select’, 1982). So, Marty, could you tell us a bit about how you came to write ‘Cambodia’ and, for all of you, why did you decide to re-invent this particular song?
Marty: I can remember writing the lyrics to this song sitting in the front foyer of RAK Records in London, the words just seemed to flow from me. ‘Cambodia’ has always been a fascinating country that was tied in with the Vietnam war, and I thought the story of a pilot who would lose his life doing clandestine work for the Americans was an interesting subject. This assumption was proved to be right, as Kim’s wonderful record of ‘Cambodia’ was a worldwide hit – and in particular, went triple platinum in France alone. I wanted to sing it on my ‘Running Together’ album and make it much more of a ballad with the accent on its lyrics.
Talking of songwriting, for this issue, we have just interviewed John Coghlan of Status Quo and, Marty, of course, back in 1968, you and Ronnie Scott were responsible for writing the band’s 1968 second hit single ‘Ice in the Sun’. Was ‘Ice in the Sun’ written specifically for Status Quo and how does it feel to be part of not only the Quo’s legacy but also part of the legacies of so many other highly successful artists you have written for, such as Lulu (‘I’m a Tiger’, single, 1968) and Hot Chocolate (‘You’ll Never Be So Wrong’, ‘Mystery’, 1982)?
Marty: It was wonderful to be a part of Quo’s career, as I feel at that point in their career, they needed something commercial for a record release, and ‘Ice in the Sun’ was the ideal vehicle. Ronnie, who co-wrote this song with me had connections to Status Quo and from the outset was determined that the song would be specifically for them. I must say, I have always been thrilled when any artist has recorded one of my songs, as obviously one takes it as a compliment, and if it has great success, it is the most wonderful feeling that any songwriter can have.
Going back to ‘Running Together’ and Roxy, you have well and truly proved that an ear for a great pop song runs in the Wilde family, having released some great music yourself and now, your Dad and Ricky have written some stunning songs and parts for you to perform on this album. What were you up to when you were asked to be part of the ‘Running Together’ project and which songs on the album have you enjoyed being part of the most?
Roxy: At the time [when] Dad had the idea for putting some demos down years ago, now I was working with Kylie, Ellie Goulding and Clare Grogan and juggling parenthood. Dad’s ideas were so cool, so I encouraged him to get them down, so he asked me to demo some tracks, so I was very excited to do this. I could hear the potential of the hooks in his writing when he’d play them to me. Initially this was a little fun hobby that was a nice way of bonding over our love of music, so I’m blown away with the amazing attention the album has been getting. I really love ‘Dublin’ and ’60’s World’. Kim’s ideas on that were fab too. I love singing ‘Don’t Wanna Fall In Love Again’, it’s a lovely song.
Of course, you have also appeared as a backing vocalist on several tours with Kylie Minogue. Could you give us an insight into what Kylie is like to work with and what are your favourite memories from working with her over the years?
Roxy: Working with Kylie was a good eleven years or so. I did every tour. So, so much travelling and so much other stuff between with that team, they were great. She’s a doll, love her. So many memories but I have to say, celebrating her five-year remission was special and watching ‘Sex and the City’ with her at the cinema, and popping a champagne bottle; the cork went flying and she fell on the sofa with her eyes crossed pretending it had hit her. Loads more fun memories, too many to mention.
She and the touring team taught me so much. Tips from dancing, remembering lyrics, to face cream and fashion were always shared too. The ‘Aphrodite’ tour  was my highlight. Everyone on that team performed a miracle each night getting that stage with water shows, aerialists and everything together. It was epic. We got to wear the most gorgeous costumes, six or seven per night and danced throughout whilst singing, which helped the cardio skills! Defo the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life professionally. Ellie [Goulding] is amazing too. Her and a guitar is just the best thing to see and hear. Our tour of Asia was incredible and her team too are wonderful. Clare Grogan is just a gorgeous human and after nine years or so, I love all the gigs we do, her voice and our chats and the team.
There has been a wonderful reaction to ‘Running Together’, including its second single, ’60’s World’, which is currently climbing the United DJs Heritage Chart and we are pleased to tell you that it is very much in the running for our Album of the Year. After putting so much work into the album, have you been pleased with the reaction to it and you think it might encourage you to make more usic together in the future?
Roxy: I’m so proud of my Dad, sister and family everyone who’s been a part of this album and our team has been fabulous and the attention this album has had is a real treat that I’m so grateful for and so happy for Dad. Dad and I are already putting together a solo album for me to collaborate our writing skulls and dad’s brill melody skills on. Thank you to everyone who’s supported this album and I can’t wait until we get to do the tour next year together!
Kim, we would like to ask you a bit about rise to fame 24-years after your father’s with the classic single ‘Kids in America’ and its parent album, 1981’s ‘Kim Wilde’. How eager were you to follow your Dad and brother Ricky, who at the age of eleven had had some success as a pop star with the single ‘I Am an Astronaut’ in 1972, and could you give us an insight into what working with your Dad, acting as songwriter and your brother, acting as songwriter and producer, on such classic singles and albums was like?
Kim: From as young as I can remember, music played a huge part in my life. As a child growing up in the ’60s, it was incredible hearing The Beatles, the Ronettes, Cilla Black and The Kinks as they belted out those incredible melodies and unforgettable lyrics. Mostly, I got to hear these songs on Radio 1 as Mum and Dad would drive us on those long journeys to Liverpool to my Nan and Grandad’s home in Huyton. At home, Dad was always strumming his guitar writing a new melody, and taping his ideas on his reel-to-reel tape deck. During 1968, I was eight years old and very aware that Dad was having phenomenal success with a handful of songs he’d written for other artists including Status Quo [‘Ice in the Sun’], The Casuals [‘Jesamine’] and Lulu [I’m a Tiger’], as well as a big hit for himself, ‘Abergavenny’.
Thankfully, many of the songs he wrote in those early years have ended up on a four-disc compilation of my Dad’s songs and recordings, including previously un-issued demo recordings, ‘Marty Wilde – A Lifetime in Music 1957-2019’. Can you imagine how proud I am now that Dad has entered his eighth decade with a brand-new album of original new songs with ‘Running Together’? A uniquely remarkable achievement, and as I write this, I know he’s in the studio recording a whole batch of fresh new ideas!
For as long as I can remember, I knew deep inside that the music world was calling me, no other subject inspired me more, and I’d developed some handy harmony singing skills from both my Mum and Dad growing up. I hoped initially I could become a session singer, never being overly ambitious to be famous myself… I just wanted a job and to be independent.
When my career began, my Dad and brother Ricky formed a tight writing bond and were under pressure to come up with the hits. ‘Kids in America’s success whisked me off around the world promoting, but I knew my career was safe in their hands. My Dad was still only in his early 40’s, and Ricky 18, I was 19 when we recorded ‘Kids…’ near our home in Hertfordshire. We had all grown up together loving the same inspiring records played at home from Dad’s, then our vinyl record collections – everything from Tchaikovsky to Kraftwerk. Our appetite for great Pop tunes was insatiable, and I know all of us still feel the same excitement when we hear a great new record. One of my most recent singles was called ‘Pop Don’t Stop’, from my ‘Here come the Aliens’ album . It is an open love letter to Pop music which will always be one of the great loves of my life, and I know my Dad and Ricky feel the same.
Thank you to you all for a wonderful interview. We wish you all the best with ‘Running Together’ and for the future.