One of the more interesting of the 1980s talent to appear at this August's Rewind South festival at Henley-on-Thames was singer Kim Wilde! Rewind shuns new talent and seeks out performers who have been around at least three decades. It is a big, brash gathering and this year those appearing alongside Kim included Soft Cell's Marc Almond, Billy Ocean, Paul Carrack, Kool & The Gang, OMD and Jimmy Somerville.
Some of these stars have been slogging away solidly over the years but for 57 year-old Kim there has been a big comeback - thanks to social media!
Unlikely as it may seem, it all began on a late commuter train. After a festive drinking session before Christmas in 2012, Kim was filmed rather drunkenly singing her hit 'Kids in America' to fellow travellers on their way home from an evening out in London. One of them happened to have a guitar with him and cheerfully accompanied Kim. Very quickly the whole carriage joined in and someone started filming the impromptu scene. The footage was shared online and soon became an internet sensation. From this unplanned event Kim's career renaissance came about! A year later she released a new album which sold well and now her latest record is 'Here Come the Aliens'.
It is over thirty-five years since Kim burst on to the music scene with the launch of the single she sang on that train. The daughter of early rock icon Marty Wilde, Kim had seventeen Top 40 hits during the 1980s and sold over 30 million records. She supported David Bowie and appeared alongside many of UK music's biggest names. But, by the mid-1990s, things had quietened down for Kim and she was happy to retreat into her lifelong hobby of gardening. Strangely, it was Kim's love of gardening that helped inspire 'Here Come the Aliens' as she once spotted strange lights in the sky as she was tending her garden one evening in 2009.
“It happened the day after Michael Jackson died,” Kim recalls. “I'd been playing his records all day long and then when I was out in the garden in the evening I suddenly saw all these weird lights. It made a big impact on me and I've looked up to the sky hoping to see those lights ever since – but I never have. Mind you, I was always interested in space. I recall watching the first moon landings as a child and, since then, I've always liked the idea of aliens landing on earth. Though, with the state the world's in lately, I often wonder what aliens would do. Would they try to help us to sort ourselves out or would they just fling us off the planet because we no longer deserve to be here?”
Kim wasn't sure initially about the merits of that internet spread of footage from the train in 2012. “You know, I had cardboard antlers on my head, I was slurring a bit and was just mammothly cocking up in public! I thought, 'Who needs to see a 50-something woman doing that?'. But then people reacted so positively to it and I revelled in that response. I think for a lot of people it was a relief to find someone well known didn't mind that happening. Everyone was so sweet and laughed about it – which I loved! Then people started phoning me up. Work offers flooded in. And when I was out in the supermarket or taking a cab or just on the street people would come up and say, 'That was so much fun, Kim...it was great to see someone letting their hair down like that.' Anyway, it was the start of a new beginning – which I've thoroughly enjoyed!”
Kim talks a bit about other music stars from the 1980s and 1990s - including her friend Sam Brown who, like Kim, was the daughter of an early years British rocker, Joe Brown. Kim has great admiration for Sam and all the excellent work she did with the likes of Pink Floyd, George Harrison and Jools Holland. Returning to the subject of Michael Jackson, Kim comments, “I once supported Michael on his major 'Bad' tour back in 1988. But that experience convinced me I had been very lucky to just have a pocket-sized music career. The whole circus of the charade as Michael's tour arrived in different towns left a thoroughly unpleasant taste in my mouth. All the creepy people and hangers on...I would truly have hated being as big as Michael or Madonna. I just love getting to sing, write my own songs and perform. It helps pay the bills and I get to travel internationally which is a huge privilege. Yet I can still shop in Tesco, could take the kids to school and I don't need bodyguards. I'd hate a life crowded with strangers I am paying for or people pretending to be my friend.”
If Kim regrets anything about the current music scene it is the lack of glamour. “Of course I grew up in the 1960s and early 1970s and I remember glam-rock which I loved. Sometimes I do yearn for more showmanship and glamour. We need a Prince or a Freddie Mercury...all those wonderful ones who are gone! People love seeing someone who is larger than life, who sets the pace and puts on outrageous clothes and sings an anthem everyone can join in with. I'd love that to happen again. ou know, I wouldn't even mind if it was me!”