If you were around in the 1980s, you will know Kim Wilde. Even if you don’t realise it, you will have heard her pop-punk anthem Kids in America played on multiple radio stations and across the TV, and you may have even found yourself absent mindedly joining in with the ridiculously catchy “a-woah-oh”s of the chorus.
Kim is the eldest child of rock ‘n’ roll star Marty Wilde, famous in the 1950s for a string of hits, but she is also a genuine superstar in her own right, racking up sales of ten million albums and 20 million singles, including Cambodia and her cover of The Supremes You Keep Me Hangin’ On.
However, in the mid 1990s she took a decade away from her career to get married and raise her two children and she hasn’t headed out for a full UK headline tour in 30 years. But that is all about to change.
“Of course I’ve been on 80s tours with my 80s pals,” says Kim, “but that’s a different kind of touring, which is wonderful and, I suppose, it’s given me the confidence to go out and do my own tour.“
Retro nostalgia shows are increasingly big business, as more and more of us look to escape the modern world for a few hours and immerse ourselves in the music of our carefree youth. “The response gets better year after year at these shows,” she enthuses, “it’s overwhelming, there’s a lot of love out there and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to go out on my own tour. I’ve also got a new album coming out.”
The 19-date jaunt around the UK comes on the back of the release of Kim’s 14th studio album, Here Come the Aliens in March. She hits our patch on Thursday 12th April with a date at the Guildhall in Preston, playing Sheffield’s Plug on the 13th, the Barbican in York on the 15th, Halifax’s Victoria Theatre on the 19th and the Lowry in Salford on the 30th.
Without a bevy of other stars from the decade of the Filofax and the leg warmer to back her up, and with her name above the door at each of these venues, does Kim have something special up her sleeve for ticketholders? “We’re throwing a lot of energy, time and money at it, actually!” she laughs, adding, “We’ve got a big production sorted out and I have a costume designer working on some fabulous outfits.”
“I’ve been working with my band for many years now, so we’re a welloiled machine. We’ve been touring a lot overseas; in Germany, Australia, all over the world, so we’re a tight fit, we’re ready to go.”
It’s a real family affair too, with younger brother Ricky acting as musical director for the shows. Ricky also joined forces with Kim to write and produce the new album, and that continuity between the work in the studio and the live performances is obviously something Kim is looking forward to showing off.
“We’ve been planning it for a couple of years now,” she insists, “and the album’s been out in the ether for several years – we started writing it in 2014 – we’ve spent a long time on it, but the timing seems right.”
Kim is self-releasing the album, something that the internet has made far easier than 35 years ago during her first flush of fame, and she talks enthusiastically about the opportunities being her own boss brings. “It’s not like the old days, when you were signed to a record company and there was so much pressure and time constraints. Releasing your own record brings a real freedom that is so much more creative, and that’s really exciting. Releasing it on my own record label, Wildeflower Records is crazy. I never thought I’d put a record out on my own label!”
It’s interesting that, as many artists bemoan the negative influences of the internet, reducing the margins made from record sales as a result of the popularity of streaming sites like Apple Music and Spotify, not to mention illegal downloads, Kim sees it as a real chance for singers and bands to take control.
Bowie was much more approachable and would pop in and say ‘hi’
“It gives you lots of freedom, I think it will be great for artists. There’s a long way to go, but when people signed to record labels years ago, they had a way of taking the artists’ money in a slightly different way to how it’s happening now. Artists have always been ripped off, mostly because they don’t do it for the money. They do it because they love music and they have their eye off the ball when it comes to things fiscal.”
Here Come the Aliens will be a digital download as well as being available on streaming sites, but it will also come out in physical formats, such as vinyl. It would be a shame if the gorgeous artwork for the album, depicting Kim as the heroine of her own 1950s B-Movie poster, was only ever viewed on a tiny smartphone screen. The illustration was another Wilde family production.
“It’s been designed by my niece Scarlett, who’s studied art for a number of years,” says Kim, “she’s put together incredible artwork for the whole project. It’s going to be on merchandise, it’s really special stuff.”
Hardcore fans of the 57-year-old will not be disappointed by the new album, featuring the trademark crunching guitars and catchy melodies of the Kim Wilde of old, but given a 2018 twist that will attract a whole host of new supporters. These are not the biggest shows she has ever played, but you get the impression that they mean so much to her, as an artist directing her own destiny. Could they even top some of the standout highlights from her career, such as opening for both Michael Jackson and David Bowie?
“There was a huge circus for both of those tours!” she recalls. Kim was the support act for
the European leg of Michael Jackson’s Bad tour, his first venture out on the road after releasing Thriller, the world’s biggest selling album of all time. “It was amazing to work with Michael Jackson at the peak of his career. He didn’t hang around too much; he was a recluse who was very protected by his entourage. He was very tall and very kind when we met, but he wasn’t into hanging out with people really.”
“Bowie was much more approachable and would pop in and say ‘hi, hope you have a great gig’. I understand not wanting to distract yourself before a show, though. I’m the same; you can’t be chatting and going out for dinner or shopping. All that energy has to go into the show.”
And Kim promises there will be plenty of energy in the performances this spring. “It’s very uplifting, positive music. We live in some very dark times. There’s a lot of dark stuff going on, and I still believe that pop music is an important place where there is joy and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It’s a great antidote to a lot of the negative things we have to endure. It’s what I can give back with 100% authenticity.”