Song written by Ricky and Marty Wilde.
Musically and lyrically, ‘Cambodia’ showed a change in direction for the Wildes from the New Wave feel of her debut album. The song was mainly synth-driven, with oriental-sounding percussion. The lyrics, telling the story of a Thailand-based RAF wife whose husband mysteriously disappears after flying out to Cambodia and never returns, are inspired by some of the tragedies that occurred in South Vietnam.
In writing the lyrics, Marty Wilde imagined an American pilot flying in a F-4 Phantom II and getting shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

This track was the fourth single by Kim Wilde in 1981, ending a very successful year for Kim. It was a number one hit in France (where more than one million copies were sold), Sweden and Switzerland, while peaking at number 2 in Germany and the Netherlands.

In 1982, ‘Cambodia’ appeared as the tenth track of the album Select.
A more up-tempo, instrumental version of the song was included on the album as Reprise, with the exception of Japan, where the Reprise track was deleted in favour of the song Bitter Is Better.


In the UK, 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.

Music video

A music video was filmed to promote the single. It was directed by Brian Grant.
Go to this page for more information.


‘Cambodia’ was remixed in 2006 by Paul Oakenfold, included as a bonus track on the album Never Say Never.
In 2018, a live version recorded during the UK live tour was included in the deluxe edition of Here Come the Aliens.
In 2019, a live recording from Paris was included in the album Aliens Live.
In 2020, Cherry Pop released four remixes: the Matt Pop Extended version, the Matt Pop instrumental, Luke Mornay Urbantronik mix and the Luke Mornay Urbantronik Instrumental.

Live performances

‘Cambodia’ was performed live on almost every concert she has done since her Debut Tour. Notable exceptions were the Here & Now Christmas Party in 2002, the Here & Now Greatest Hits Tour in 2003, the Christmas concerts at Knebworth House in 2014, live dates in December 2015, the Here Come the aliens tour and during the Return of the Aliens Tour.

Cover versions

‘Cambodia’ has been covered by Anubis Gate, Apoptygma Berzerk, Archon, Base Unique, Brutto, April Crimson, Chinese Theatre, Malik Djoudi, Enigmatic, Hearse, Icecode, Kim, Kurz, Letris, Liba, Libra, Matthieu Malon, My Enemy, Nobody, Nolem, P.∆.N.T.H.E.R, Post Life Disorder, Pulsedriver, Richard Romance Synthesizer Section, Roma Amor, Second Version, Six Pack, SnailMageddon, Stanza, Lynn Sweet, the Top of the Poppers and Vorwerk.

There is also a Finnish translation of ‘Cambodia’, which is called ‘Matka Tuntemattomaan’, performed by Satu Pentikäinen in 1982.
A Croatian version entitled Kad Dođem Ja was released by Vatrogasci in 1999.
Another Croatian version entitled Način Života was released by Armada Rijeka in 2008.
A Czech version entitled Ať Život Má Svůj Děj was released by Jiřina Urbanová in 1984.
A French version entitled ‘Cambodge’ was released by Centredumonde & Claire Redor in 2020.
A German version entitled Verloren in der Einsamkeit was released by German singer Jacqueline in 2010.

The track Coma Aid by Marco V features the melody line of ‘Cambodia’.
Part of the song was used on ‘Back 2 Cambodia’ by DJ Rasputin.

Marty Wilde about ‘Cambodia’

This is my favourite track on the whole album. One day, Ricky and I heard a track with two bass notes repeating one after the other and we both thought this would be a great introduction to a song. Ricky did a demo at RAK Studios and had added these kind of Oriental percussion sounds to it. It sounded to me as though it had to be something Oriental and I asked one of Kim’s friends who was listening to the demo had anyone else ever written a song called ‘Cambodia’. She said that there was a similar title recorded by the Dead Kennedys (Holiday in Cambodia – ed.) and at first I was a bit concerned because I wanted the song to be original and fresh.
However, I thought the subject matter so good and so strong that I went ahead anyway and although I didn’t want to turn the song into a political essay, I tried in my own way to show what I believe that most people felt about South Vietnam and the terrible tragedies that occurred there. When we originally wrote the song I imagined an American pilot flying in a MacDonnell Phantom and getting shot down by a SAM air missile. On the ‘Reprise’ originally there was going to be the sound of jet engines followed by the sound of a rocket blowing the Phantom up, but in the meantime we’d had the sleeve of Kim’s single ‘Cambodia’ and on the back of the sleeve, as probably most of you know, there was a cartoon which featured helicopters, so we had to change the sound to helicopters which saddened me a great deal because I would like to have extended the song and I could have tried to influence Ricky to put a few more frilly and exciting synth sounds on to that Reprise. Those of you that saw Kim’s show will know that we used the Reprise to open up the show and I must confess sometimes when I stood watching the show I used to get a particular kick out of it. (1)

Kim about ‘Cambodia’

My father wrote the lyrics months ago. It was meant for inclusion on my second album. But we thought it was so good, that we released it as a single. It’s about a wife of an American pilot, who ends up being killed in the Cambodian war. The lyric was originally written in the first person. But while I could really identify with the woman in question, I have changed it, so that I now sing it in third person. (2)

‘Cambodia’ is a mysterious love story, like Casablanca. Flying off into the night to never return. One wonders what happened to the guy. It’s like that Gene Pitney song, ’24 Hours From Tulsa’ where you tend to think, who is that woman who stopped him going back to his wife, which isn’t a particularly profound thing to think about but you can’t help wondering. It’s very haunting. (3)

It’s a song that leaves you with various questions. A song which you don’t know what it’s about or what’s happening in it. You get a certain idea, but you just don’t know. And a song like that tries a lot to make the mystery bigger. That’s Cambodia to me. It’s open to all kinds of interpretations. Like most of our songs, really. That’s why I don’t like talking about it. It’s irrelevant. (4)

[Marty] was recording at RAK Records, Mickie Most’s record label in Charlbert Street, our first label, Sting was playing in the next studio doing some work and came in and said, you know – I wasn’t there that day so I missed this, but I got told about it – he wandered in and said ‘would you like me to put some bass down on the track’, which he did, and then apparently my dad didn’t like it very much and then Rick said ‘I think it was better simpler, the way we did it’, so – I can’t believe I’m saying this – (…) they were probably right, you know, just because he is quite astonishing doesn’t mean that he got it right that day on that song. (5)

Highest chart positions

Australia: 7
Austria: 4
Belgium: 4
Denmark: 1
France: 1
Germany: 2 (26 weeks)
Ireland: 15 (8 weeks)
Netherlands: 2 (12 weeks)
Norway: 3
South Africa: 2
Sweden: 1 (22 weeks)
Switzerland: 1 (11 weeks)
United Kingdom: 12 (12 weeks)

Interview source

(1) Kim Wilde Fanclub Magazine May 1983
(2) On December 17 she presents her new song ‘Cambodia’ in Musikladen: Kim Wilde, Bravo (Germany), 16 December 1981
(3) Born to be Wilde, ZigZag (UK), February 1982
(4) Kim Wilde: Paul Evers’s bubblegum picture, Muziekkrant Oor (Netherlands), 7 April 1982
(5) Life of Brian… Mannix that is, Episode 19, Kim Wilde, 5 October 2021


Well he was Thailand based
She was an airforce wife
He used to fly weekends
It was the easy life
But then it turned around
And he began to change
She didn’t wonder then
She didn’t think it strange
But then he got a call
He had to leave that night
He couldn’t say too much
But it would be alright
He didn’t need to pack
They’d meet the next night
He had a job to do
Flying to Cambodia

And as the nights passed by
She tried to trace the past
The way he used to look
The way he used to laugh
I guess she’ll never know
What got inside his soul
She couldn’t make it out
Just couldn’t take it all
He had the saddest eyes
The girl had ever seen
He used to cry some nights
As though he lived a dream
Ans as she held him close
He used to search her face
As though she knew the truth
Lost inside Cambodia

But then a call came through
They said he’d soon be home
She had to pack a case
And they would make a rendez-vous
But now a year has passed
And not a single word
And all the love she knew
Has disappeared out in the haze
Cambodia – Don’t cry now – No tears now

And now the years have passed
With not a single word
But there is only one thing left
I know for sure
She won’t see his face again


Release date: 2 November 1981Producer: Ricky Wilde Formats 7″ format Australia: RAK 621Brazil: RAK 008-64658Germany: RAK…

Les années bonheur

5 January 2013
France 2 (France)

Kim Wilde appears in this nostalgic TV show to sing ‘Cambodia’ live with the house band. A short interview after her performance follows.

How are you Kim ?
I’m fine thank you and very happy to be here tonight.

Will you be recording another album?
Yes, I hope to record a new album this year and do many gigs.

You must do more gigs here in France. I had seen you perform as a special guest for Michael Jackson at the parc des Princes in Paris, it was wonderful ! And anytime you wish to come back to France, you will be welcome and especially here on this TV show to perform another song.
Thanks, see you soon…

We love you!
Thank you very much, Goodbye!


7 December 1986

Kim Wilde and a band consisting of two guitarists and a drummer perform in front of a live studio audience. After a lengthy introduction in Swedish by two presenters, Kim lipsynchs the songs ‘Schoolgirl’, ‘Cambodia’ and ‘Hold back’.


25 April 1982

Kim sings ‘Cambodia’ live to a pre-recorded backing track. She is dressed in black and stands alone on an empty stage.


1 January 1982
Canale 5 (Italy)

Kim does a lipsynch performance of ‘Cambodia’ in the Popcorn studio with a live studio audience behind her. After her performance, the presenter interviews her, while translating the answers  in Italian in between the questions.

I know that you have been number one in all European charts. Can you mention the countries?
There’s England of course, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Australia…

Your song ‘Cambodia’ has lovely lyrics. What is the meaning, the story?
‘Cambodia’ is really a love story. It’s about someone who loses someone who they love very much in very mysterious circumstances.

Your future plans?
When I go back we will be releasing our new single in England, finishing our album and starting our tour.


1 January 1982

Lipsynch performance of ‘Cambodia’ on an empty stage with a disco ball on the left and at the back, in between two small TV screens. Kim is dressed in black. The performance is preceded by a short interview, during which the presenter talks a lot in Italian and Kim answers in English, looking slightly confused.


19 December 1981

After a full broadcast of the music video for ‘Cambodia’, Kim Wilde is interviewed in front of an audience of children. She also answers questions that have been sent in.

How are you? You had a terrible time getting here, didn’t you?
Yeah, it’s been awful, really.

This time yesterday you were in Italy, weren’t you?
Yeah, we got on the plane at 9 o’clock and didn’t leave until 5 in the afternoon. Didn’t get to Birmingham until half past five last night. I mean, half past eleven.

This must be a tricky problem for you, because you’ve got success in so many countries on the continent. Are you finding you have to cancel lots of things because of the weather?
Yeah, we’ve got to cancel a trip tomorrow, and I don’t know about next week because we can’t get anyone in the offices because no-one can get to work.

It is a nuisance isn’t it? How do you find all the travelling? Do you find it incredibly tiring when you’ve got to keep visiting all these countries?
I do, but it’s a lot of fun and you get to see a lot of interesting places. It’s mostly a lot of fun.

Last year there must have been such a dramatic change in your life, I mean this time last year very few people had heard of Kim Wilde, now, four or five hits later and hits in various different countries. Have you found it hard to cope with this?
Um… no. I’m having a great time.

You’ve been enjoying it. Quite a few people have actually sent in questions for me to ask you, actually. (…) Colin Porter wants me to ask you when we could expect you to go out on tour?
Hopefully next year. I can’t be very specific about that, unfortunately.

Is there any reason why it’s taking you so long to actually go out on the road?
Well, basically it’s because we’ve been doing so much recording and promotion abroad and everywhere, so it’s really a practical reason.

But it’s something that you want to do?
Oh yeah, definitely.

Right. Next question is from Graham Granger from Kidderminster, who says, I’d like you to ask what Kim Wilde what’s she doing next Saturday night. How did that get in there? Dave Johnson from the Isle of Wight wants to know, what record you’ve made out of all that you’ve made do you like the best?
That’s really difficult. I don’t know, I like Cambodia.

Any special reason?
Because it’s slightly different from what we were doing and people are buying it which means…

You were saying earlier that’s in fact the one that’s the biggest seller on the continent.
It is, yeah, at the moment.

In the film just now we saw you with all sorts of snakes and things like that. Was it quite frightening or are you alright with animals?
It was, it was the most horrific experience of my life, with a snake going over my leg, which was pretty frightening. But it was quite thrilling.

As you’re talking about animals, I’ve got a letter here from Tony Payne from Leicester. He says, I’ve heard that you have some Japanese koi fish as pets. Is that true?

And of course the inevitable question, loads of people have written in to me to ask you, about the influence your Dad’s had on your career.
Er… That’s a really hard question to ask, because all parents have a terrific influence on their kids. Just as much as anyone else.

Have you found it a great help to have a famous Dad, or not? Some famous kids say it wasn’t a help. Do you think it is a help?
I think it’s… the advantages and the disadvantages just about weigh themselves out.

Thank you very much Kim for coming in to see us here today and for making that tremendously awful long journey to see us.