Kim Wilde: a little overdue musical recognition

So the Love Blonde bombshell that is Kim Wilde is going to be treading the boards in 2018. Taking Here Come The Aliens, her 14th studio album, across England, Scotland and Wales in the spring it promises to be a thoroughly British affair.

Amazingly, this is going to be the Hertfordshire hoochie’s first full solo tour for three decades. Says she: “I don’t think I’ve toured the UK for over 30 years so I can’t wait to play this brand new show with my fantastic band. We are going to be playing my biggest hits and some fabulous tracks from the new album.”

Talking of those hits – and there were plenty of them – it’s easy to forget that it was Kim not Kate who was the biggest selling British female performer in the UK singles charts in the 1980s. To my slight surprise, I found myself binge-Kimming at my apartment in Sydney not so long ago, playing wall to wall Wilde for a solid two or three days. And why not?

Rewind almost four decades and in the early 1980s, when I started developing a discerning ear with regards to music, the peroxided pop princess was conceived (contrived, even) and marketed as the English Debbie Harry, which even went as far as the cover pastiche, sorry homage, to Blondie’s Parallel Lines on her eponymously-titled first album from 1981. 

Smash Hits magazine detected “a distinct whiff of calculation” on Kim’s debut set, cleverly acquiescing that it would be “a little snide to suggest that this is the best Blondie album for a couple of years.” That blonde ambition persisted, and Sing It Out For Love, from 1983’s impossibly titled Catch As Catch Can, is a pretty keyboard-driven corker that bears remarkable similarity to Blondie’s epic car crash obscurity, Suzy & Jeffrey, the flipside to The Tide Is High.

But do you know what? Kim’s never been the greatest vocalist (“she sounds like she’s singing through her nose”, my mum said) but amongst the surly sex kitten glamour at C&A vibe there’s some pretty decent songs littered throughout her long career, many of them written by little brother, Ricky, and dad Marty Wilde, a 1950s rocker with several hits of his own under his belt).

The singer’s Mum, Joyce, took care of the management side, so it’s not difficult to work out the Wilde family unit helped keep Kim one of the most down to earth and ‘normal’ pop stars you could imagine having a good old natter about Coronation Street with. Hell, when I caught her supporting Michael Jackson on his record-breaking Bad tour of 1988 she even had her gran watching in a deckchair from the side of the stage at Milton Keynes Bowl.

From that memorable debut album, the 45s Chequered Love and Water On Glass were vibrant electronic econo-pop that successfully reproduced the spare synth-dominated sound of the day. But there were plenty more. Between 1981 and 1996, she had 25 singles reach the Top 50, including Cambodia, View From A Bridge, Child Come Away, the saucily-titled You Came, Never Trust A Stranger, that fabulous high-energy cover of the Supremes’ You Keep Me Hangin’ On (a US No.1, fact fans), and of course this! 

Just listening to Kids In America now it never occurred to me before just how much the backing vocals sound like Phil Oakey. Makes you wonder if that wasn’t quite coincidental, considering how hot the mighty Human League were becoming by 1981*. Yup, this song was released 37 bloody years ago. Just three months later I bought my first single, by the handsome mirror man. Da diddly qua qua!

Steve Pafford

*Kim was clearly an admirer of the League’s, as this 1983 interview confirms. In fact a Paul Moore did relay a story on my Facebook last year in which he states: “My mate Tim used to work for Martin Rushent at Genetic Sounds in Streatley where Dare was recorded, and he did tell me around that time that Marty, Ricky and Kim Wilde came in to see Martin with the idea of recording there but I don’t think it actually happened.”