Interview

Date
Published in
Top of the pops website (UK)

With lots of atti-tood, Kim Wilde was an '80s prototype for today's independent chicks. Now she's swapped glitz for gladiolas, TOTP gets digging...

Is pop music better or worse now than in the '80s?
I certainly don't think it's inferior. There's some great stuff about. I love R&B. Ashanti and J-Lo and Craig David are all coming out with cool stuff. I think pop-wise there certainly aren't as many personalities about nowadays as there were in the 80s. That's Robbie Williams' great strength, his personality. It's certainly not his singing! People want performers, personality and drama and you got that in the '80s.

Pop Idol TV? Devil spawn or a genuine hotbed of creative talent?
Mmm... I haven't seen anyone on there to really convince me yet. Those kids can sing but you need a bit more to be a pop star than just a good voice. I don't think the shows are an obstacle to real talent getting through. Real talent will get through whatever the obstacles. Look at David Gray. His album beat Gareth Gates to the No. 1 spot didn't it? There's hope yet.

Regrets? Have you had a few?
I could pick holes in it and say I made some mistakes but it was the best career for me at that time. It enabled me to have a life now, to be normal. I can go down to Tesco's to do the shopping and not get bothered. Having the level of fame Michael Jackson has is pointless. You can't do anything. It enabled me to leave the business with a bit of dignity and if I want to do this retro '80s thing now, I can.

Did you enjoy being a pop star?
I liked the performing but I wasn't too keen on the rest of it. There was never time to relax and take stock. There was always pressure to keep the momentum going with a new single, a new album. It grew to be quite exhausting, mentally and physically. I started going through a bad depression towards the end of my career. My self esteem was really low. It took me a few years to recover from it.

Who was your main pop rival?
I used to be really jealous of Claire Grogan but only because I thought she was gorgeous and I loved the band and I bought her records but I wouldn't say there was any real rivalry.

Thatcher and the Tories? A big influence on your music?
Well there was definitely a punk hangover in the '80s. There was still a lot of attitude flying about that affected the way we made music. I was 20 and just out of art college with dyed, punky hair. Thatcher was definitely omnipresent in the '80s and created the dynamics for something to react against. I don't think that exists now.

Was there any discrimination towards women in the industry back then?
No, I didn't but the record company really pissed me off when they told me to lose weight. I thought, 'Has it come to this? Where my self esteem depends on losing a few pounds?' Eventually I couldn't be bothered with looking a certain way and not being myself. I was 31 and I just felt burnt out. So I left the business and I don't regret it. I signed up for the musical Tommy in the West End instead where I met my husband, Hal. He was playing cousin Kevin and I was Mrs Walker. We're now married. I have two children and I've developed a career as a gardener and I love it.

So, now you are green fingered Wilde. Who'd have thought...?
I know. I love performing but I can take it or leave it. Horticulture is far more challenging. I'm absolutely fascinated by it. There's always something to learn. My whole fascination with it started when I decided to grow a garden for my kids.

You're on the Here & Now tour. Sad novelty '80s act time or a serious comeback?
I was wary about doing this at first. All those thoughts about novelty act went through my mind and I knew it would be a bit of a gamble but I like getting up there and performing the old songs. My instincts told me to do it and they've never let me down.