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Baker's Dozen

Select Few: Kim Wilde’s Favourite Albums
Alex Burrows , August 31st, 2022 08:05

Singer-songwriter, broadcaster and award winning horticulturalist, pop icon Kim Wilde is a true connoisseur of vocal arrangements as Alex Burrows discovers from a Baker's Dozen that ranges from The Beach Boys to Prefab Sprout

Photo by Sean J Vincent

“I love talking about music, I listen to it all the time. It’s still a huge part of my life, immersing myself in music,” says Wilde who is currently rating the likes of Black Midi and Big Thief following their Glastonbury appearances. “It’s inspiring to see young musicians so inventive, brave and courageous.”

Surrounded by a truly musical family, Wilde was passionate about music from an early age and was encouraged to make good use of the family’s state-of-the-art hi-fi system. Her parents’ record collection was an educational treasure trove of classics. “Half the albums I’ve included here come from my father’s record collection and half don’t. At home, it was my dad who would go out and buy the vinyl.”

Mum Joyce Barker was a member of 1950s female ensemble choir The Vernons Girls who sang with the house band on TV’s Oh, Boy! – a forerunner to Top Of The Pops along with Six-Five Special and Boy Meets Girls. She first met Kim’s dad, Marty Wilde – the Harry Styles of his day – when the teen idol pop star appeared on the show as a regular act. Along with Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde was an early British rock and roll singer who adopted and emulated the American style of the late 1950s. He progressed into musicals and films as well as co-songwriting for the likes of The Casuals, Lulu, and Status Quo. In 1965 he formed The Wilde Three with Barker and a teenage guitarist named Justin Hayward – who 18 months later would join The Moody Blues, thanks to Marty Wilde’s encouragement and endorsement.

Impressively, at the age of 83, Marty Wilde MBE is still playing and touring today. “All the time! Much more than me!” laughs Kim Wilde about her dad, who, along with brother Ricky was songwriter of her classic 80s new wave material. “It’s amazing. He plays golf every day. He’s teetotal now. But his love of music and his career has kept him young above all other things – as well as the constant love of his wife. I learnt a lot from my father and still do as a performer.”

Despite having a musical head start with her encouraging home life, ultimately it was one of those inspirational and memorable schoolteachers who spurred Wilde’s developing singing career, which produced her first public performance. Her music teacher awarded her the lead part of Mary in her primary school’s musical nativity and she performed the solo for ‘My Soul Doth Magnify The Lord’.

“I sung it with all my heart! I love that song,” laughs Wilde. “I recorded it recently during lockdown to send to my then school music teacher, Mr Webster. He gave me the part to sing the song which was quite a challenge at the time. He’d got in contact with me and sadly he wasn’t very well and has since passed away. He had a huge impact on me as a child, he was a gifted and inspirational music teacher, so I sent him the recording as thanks.”

The role of Mary at age 11 is a far cry from Wilde’s ice-cool post-punk debut ten short years later in 1981 with her first album. Preceded by the planet-spanning new wave anthem ‘Kids In America’, the self-titled debut was recorded in the studio of elder prog statesmen The Enid who also worked as backing band. In hindsight it’s something of a coincidence considering Wilde’s appreciation of the genre.

“I hadn’t heard of them as a band, but I was very into prog music. I was a huge fan – we all were – of Mike Oldfield and Genesis and Supertramp. Prog was a big slice of the music that we loved. We all loved ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. When I heard The Enid’s album at the time I loved it, I thought it was a great album. It just makes absolute sense now when I think back that we were working with that band at that time, although I have to say that overall, most of everything that got played on the album from a musical point of view was really just down to my brother Ricky.”

Marty Wilde brought a classic pop songwriting sensibility to his daughter’s first three albums. Ricky was influenced by The Stranglers, The Skids, but more crucially, the era’s cutting-edge futurist synth outfits: OMD, Ultravox, John Foxx, and Gary Numan. The latter especially informed her 1982 album Select. Even today it feels ahead of its time, an incredible work that saw Wilde take a left-turn from the tradition of ‘Kids In America’ and ‘Chequered Love’ with the significantly darker ‘View from a Bridge’, ‘Wendy Sadd’ and ‘Cambodia’.

Wilde also worked as collaborator, especially on the vocal arrangements. Her songwriting skills came into focus on fourth album ‘Teases & Dares which ventured into techno pop following mixed reviews for third effort Catch As Catch Can. From there onwards, across 14 studio albums her work would encompass classic Hi-NRG pop, electronica, dance, R&B, and rock. Latest studio album, 2018’s Here Come the Aliens is a reflection on her overall career with Pop Don’t Stop, a tribute to the music that made her.

From pop to prog to punk to soul to jazz-pop and beyond, her album choices are redolent of Kim’s love of diversity that informed her reluctance to re-tread the same territory. Experimentation and evolving style surpassed commercial considerations. “I didn’t ever want to fit into a genre,” says Wilde. “I loved that I could jump around a bit. I didn’t always get away with it and that’s fair play too – that’s the nature of it. But I love that I’ve always had the freedom to do that.”

Kim Wilde tours the UK in September. Her first three albums were recently reissued by Cherry Red recently reissued by Cherry Red. To begin reading her selections, click the picture of her below