Song written by Ricky and Marty Wilde.
The song was recorded in 1980 after RAK Records boss Mickie Most heard Wilde singing on a backing track for her brother Ricky Wilde (most probably Tearaway). He liked her voice and image and expressed an interest to work with her. Ricky Wilde, together with his father Marty wrote the song 'Kids in America' for Kim to record, using a WASP synthesizer. Ricky later stated that the main synth line was inspired by that of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's 'Messages'. He recorded a demo with Kim at The Lodge, produced together with Steve Stewart of The Enid. They went into the studio with everything except the words to the chorus, which Marty Wilde, who was responsible for writing the lyrics to the song, came up with at the last minute. The line "Whoah-oh!", which is sung after the song's title lyrics, was originally meant to be a guitar lick or a brass stab, but sounded much better sung by the male backing vocals, according to Marty. Most heard the demo and decided to remix the track himself. He released it on RAK as Wilde's first single in January 1981. Later it appeared as track 5 on Kim's debut album Kim Wilde.
The single, released on 26 January 1981, was an immediate hit, peaking at number 2 on the UK singles chart. It sold over 2 million copies worldwide. The following year it became a Top 30 hit in the US. In the summer of 1981, the track appeared on Wilde's self-titled debut album.
In 2005, the song was included in the soundtrack album of the movie Daltry Calhoun. In 2023 the song appeared on the soundtrack of the movie She came from the woods.
In 1994, several remixes of the track were released as Kids in America 1994. The compilation album The Remix Collection, released the same year, included the Maranza mix of 'Kids in America'.
In 2001, a remix entitled 'Bright lights remix' was released on The Very Best of Kim Wilde.
In 2006, Kim included a new version called Kids in America (2006) on her album Never Say Never.
In 2007, a live version of 'Kids in America' was released on the cd-single Baby Obey Me. This live version was recorded on February 21, 2007 at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels (Belgium).
A live version recorded during the UK live tour was included in the deluxe edition of Here Come the Aliens in 2018 and on Aliens Live in 2019.
In 2020, Cherry Pop released five new remixes: Luke Mornay Remix, Luke Mornay Instrumental, Popfidelity Allstars remix, Popfidelity Allstars instrumental and the Neutrophic remix.
In the UK and America, the single was only released on 7" format. However, in Germany a 12" single was also made and distributed around Europe. This 12" single contained no special versions, it contained the same tracks as the 7" single.
See also this page in the discography.
'Kids in America' was performed live on each and every live concert by Kim Wilde since her Debut Tour in 1982.
'Kids in America' has been covered by 80 Caliber, Aequivox, Aje'h, Aksons, Alchemy, All Right Tokyo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, American Juniors, The Anchor, Billy Joe Armstrong, Atombuzz, Atomic Kitten, Audia, Back beach all stars, Bad Biscut, the Bam Bams, The Baseballs, Beat Crusaders, Beautiful Boy, Big-Box Store, BIIANCO, Bitch Alert, Blonde Electra, Bloodhound Gang, Bouncing souls, Brewed & bottled, Brokken Roses, Bronnie, Carne de Puta, Cascada, Catch 22, Chaos Engine, Chilli and the Peanuts, CineMuerte, Corporate Christ, Cover Up, Born Crain, DJ Boonie, Dr. & the Medics, Patrick Daly, Darling Waste, DeadraveN, Dedeepedoodah, Disco Express, the Donnas, Dan Dryers, Tom Duke & Gronaerten, Effcee, Electric Six, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Energy Function Band, Euphrasia, Foo Fighters, Fourth grade nothing, GAD '80, Ghoul, Gino Marinello Orchestra, Gonzo, Good Kitty, Guter, the Happy Revolvers, the Harvard Din & Tonics, Joshua Dumas and Katy Albert, Charlotte Hatherley, Hiddys, Hot Stewards, It's a cover up, Jean-Claude Petit Orchestra, Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers, Kick, Kim, Kim-Lian, Kizooks, Nicolette Knight, Lawnmower Deth, the Larks, Lyane Leigh, Len, Liquid Lava, Local Oafs, the Lollies, Lolly, Los Angeles de Tute, L'uke, LVCRFT, Malin, Marsha, Javier Martinez Maya, Mickey Trump, Minipops, Morella's Forest, the Motorettes, Muffs, MxPx, Naked Aggression, Nasty Habits, Night Shift Band, Nirvana, No Label, No Secrets, NOFX, The Omega Point, One Coin, One Direction, Orange Sector, Orko, Plunk, Radio Wendy, Richard Romance Sythesizer Section, de Romeo's, Room full of strangers, Rubbish, Runway MMC, John Rushton, Saws 'n' Squares, Sex Appeal, Shebang, Silence, Sixteen Deluxe, Snake Eye, Sylvio de Silver, Sômbre, Strawberry Slaughterhouse, Sugar Beats, Lynn Sweet, Tasty, Terminus City, Terremoto Party, That Eighties Band, Them Sluts, Taivalkunta Beat, Tiffany, Tin Lizzy, The Twang, Ursüla, Virgin Suicides, Benjamin Wagner, Sarah Walker, the Wynona Riders, Yohmm and the Young Knives.
There are six versions of 'Kids in America' with different lyrics:
- Kids de France, performed by Oi Banner,
- Kids in Australia, performed by Game Over,
- Kids in quarantine, performed by Joe Trey,
- Kids in Tyne & Wear, performed by Toy Dolls,
- Kids in West Germany, performed by the Maniacs
- Kids on alcohol, performed by Anal Thunder,
- Kids of the future, performed by Jonas Brothers,
- Loonies in the Bus Station, performed by Bus Station Loonies.
Plus the following versions of 'Kids in America' with different lyrics and a different language:
- Fragen sie Tante Erika, performed by the Sensational Knecht Ruprecht Band,
- Generika, performed by QL,
- Kaupungin Lapset, performed by Mona Carita (1981), Jonna (1986), Make Lentonen (1993) and TikTak (2001),
- Verliebt in Veronika, performed by Robert Haag.
The song is quoted in the track The Art of Losing by American Hi-fi.
Marty Wilde about 'Kids in America'
This was the song that started Kim off and it's a very important track. The melody line was written by Rick at our Hertfordshire home and it really came quite quickly, in about half an hour. We originally thought it would be a great title for an album as well as a single and had this vision of the sleeve which would feature a New York skyscraper with Kim's face in an aura in the background instead of the sun or moon. It was our first hit, written for enjoyment and we were delighted that it got as high as it did. (1)
Mickie Most about 'Kids in America'
What I heard, immediately, was a hit. The public today is looking for a less polished, slightly do-it-yourself sound in records generally. I knew instinctively that this could be the start of a huge record, and a big career for the girl. (2)
Ricky Wilde about 'Kids in America'
I wanted to be a singer. I went into a demo studio and recorded a couple of tracks and went into RAK Studios. And Mickie Most came out and heard it and said "Yeah, I like it, but I want this to be recorded with a different producer". Which I wasn't too happy about. So I said "Yeah, okay, I'll do it", cause it was a record deal. So I went in there, recorded these couple of songs and I said to the guy who was producing me, a guy called Steve, I said, "Steve, it is alright if I bring my sister in to do backing vocals?". He says, "Yeah, fine, bring her in". So Kim came in and started singing. When she was singing Mickie Most came in and said "She looks good. I like her voice as well, maybe we can do something with her", and he walked out.
And then Steve looks at me and said, "Yeah, maybe I can produce something with Kim as well". And I thought, "Hang on a minute... I'm not sure about this". So that's when I went home that night, wrote 'Kids in America', booked two days studio time in a separate studio, recorded it with Kim, then went back to Mickie and said, "Look, this is a song with Kim that I produced, what do you think of it?", and he thought it was a smash. Then it became priority over my stuff. (3)
Kim about 'Kids in America'
I knew it was a hit, and within a month it had been remixed here, in Mickie Most's studio. The record was all quick-quick-quick. Ricky and my father wrote it quite quickly, it was demo'd quickly, mixed quickly, and went up the chart quickly. That's the way I like pop music to be: write a good song, sing it, and get on with the next before there's time to think about it too much. (4)
I still like my song Kids in America. I'm just waiting for one of tese new bands to cover it. Someone like Jesus And Chain Mary Gang, whatever it's called... Jesus And Main (bursts into hysterical laughter and puts on a granny voice)... what's that new-fangled pop band called, the one that all the young people like these days...?! (5)
That's the fun about music: it should wind people up a bit. I mean, "Kids in America" really wound people up. It was such an infectious song that people really hated liking it. It was sung by an English girl whose father had written the lyrics and whose brother had produced it. And it was on RAK Records to boot. "From New York to East California..." Where the hell's that? I still don't know! And everybody loved it.
When it was a hit in America, they were like, 'Why 'East California'? Why not all the way over to the west? Why miss out on that whole section of California that's not mentioned in the song?' And I said, 'Well, they already got it. The people from the west side have already got it. We just had to bring it over to the east.' I was finding myself trying to come up with any excuse as to why my dad might have written 'East California', and if you ask him, quite disarmingly, he'll just say, 'Cause it sounded better'. (6)
It's strange to have any feelings about that one any more, because I've been asked about it relentlessly for 13 years. I still really enjoy performing it. It's easy to like 'Kids In America' because everybody else loves it. I can see that it's a classic song, which explains why there's the interest in remixing it again. I can't say that about every record I've released, but I think I can say that about 'Kids In America'. (7)
I did hear the one by Lawnmower Deth. They have made a trashmental-version. And there's a horrific version in the movie Clueless. It's really horrible. But I like that the song comes up every now and again. It doesn't surprise me, because it was such an enormous hit. And everyone still likes the song. (8)
Highest chart positions
Germany: 5 (32 weeks)
Ireland: 2 (9 weeks)
Netherlands: 6 (13 weeks)
New Zealand: 5
South Africa: 1
Sweden: 2 (18 weeks)
Switzerland: 5 (11 weeks)
United Kingdom: 2 (13 weeks)
United States: 25 (18 weeks)
(1) Kim Wilde Fanclub Introductory Magazine
(2) Kim Wilde taking different route to top : Word-of-mouth, Personal Promotions, Not Live Shows build sales, Billboard (USA), September 19, 1981
(3) Frequenstar, M6 (France), October 5, 1992
(4) The Wilde side of Kim, Melody Maker (UK), April 11, 1981
(5) Miss Heartache, Frontline (UK), 1988
(6) Mad World (book), 2014
(7) Kim Wilde, Record Collector (UK), September 1993
(8) 'I don't talk about my lovelife, not even for money', Aktueel (Netherlands), 1995