Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kim Wilde -- "Kids in America" (1982)

Look boy, don't check on your watch
Not another glance 
I'm not leaving now, honey
Not a chance! 

The previous 2 or 3 lines featured "Abergavenny," a 1969 hit by British singer, Marty Wilde.

Today's post features his daughter Kim's 1982 hit, "Kids in America," which was written by Marty Wilde and his son (Kim's brother), Ricky Wilde.

I've previously written about my friend Scott.  The two of us were assigned to share an office when we were brand-new lawyers at the Federal Trade Commission in 1977.  Scott was as big a music fan as I was (not to mention as big a Yankees fan), so we got along very well.

Scott was the designated driver on my first trip to Yankee Stadium -- opening day, 1978.  We ate lunch together at McDonald's several times a week our first couple of years at the FTC, and played softball, listened to music, and went to a lot of movies together -- including the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which we saw together several times one summer.  (I remember squirming through Alien with Scott in 1979.  He was a bigger fan of sci-fi and horror movies than I was.)  Scott was the best man at my wedding in 1982.

I'll never forget the Sunday morning in 2000 when my wife woke me up and handed me the front section of the Washington Post.  There on the front page was a photo of a mangled car and a story reporting that Scott and his wife, Janis, had been killed instantly in freak automobile accident the day before while driving their 14-year-old son and another boy to a soccer game.  (Fortunately, both boys survived.  But three other people in another car were also killed in the accident.) 

Here's what happened: an SUV that was northbound on I-95 in northern Virginia made an improper lane change and struck the rear of a dump truck, causing the truck to veer across five lanes of traffic, barrel through a guardrail and collide almost head-on with two southbound cars.

Scott and Janis and the three people in the other car were innocent victims who could have done nothing to avoid the collision -- they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I can't begin to comprehend why such a terrible thing happened, but it did.

The driver of the SUV wasn't drunk and he wasn't speeding.  I'm guessing he was simply changing lanes hurriedly in an attempt to get in position to exit before it was too late.  The driver of the SUV was from South Carolina, and wouldn't have been the first person to have serious difficulty navigating what locals call "the mixing bowl," where I-95 intersects with the Capital Beltway.  There's no stretch of road in the Washington area where the volume of traffic is greater, and most of that traffic is zooming along at 60 mph or so.
Scott had an amazing record collection.  I had hundreds of albums, but he had thousands.  (I spent a fair amount of money on music, but I was too cheap to spend money on records like Scott did.)

Scott made me a mixtape with "Kids in America" on it sometime after that song was released in 1982.  Most of the songs on that tape were from new wave records released in the late seventies and early eighties.

I still have that tape.  (As you can see, handwriting wasn't something at which Scott excelled.)

I listened to Scott's tape regularly for many years.  Besides "Kids in America," it included "Turning Japanese" (the Vapors), "Pretty in Pink" (Psychedelic Furs), "I Hate Mondays" (Boomtown Rats), "Homosapien" (Pete Shelley), "Echo Beach" (Martha and the Muffins), "Bionic Man" (Fabulous Poodles), "Jackie Onassis" (Human Sexual Response), and "Rock and Roll High School" (Ramones).  I'll be featuring several of the songs from Scott's tape in the coming weeks.

I still think about Scott and his wife (who also worked at the FTC when he and I were there).  Mostly I think how sad it is that his children lost their father and mother at such a young age.  Scott would have loved being a grandfather, and it's a tragedy for his grandchildren that they missed out on the chance to know him.

Scott and Janis's daughter, who was away at college when the accident occurred, wrote a letter to them that was read at their funeral.  Here's a brief excerpt from it:

Dear Mommy and Daddy: You are the two most amazing people I ever met. . . . I want you to know there was nothing else you could have done to make me a better and happier person. . . . I will dedicate my life to [my brother]. . . . I love you always and forever.
Kim Wilde was barely 20 when "Kids in America" was released.  It made it to #25 in the U.S., but was a #2 hit in the UK and a top-five single in France, Germany, South Africa, Australia, and many other countries.  

Wilde released 17 top-40 singles in the UK in the 1980s -- no female British single has ever had more chart hits in a single decade.  She continues to tour and record -- her 12th studio album was released in 2011.  

Kim is also a gardener of some note.  She has won awards at a number of British flower shows, and has published two gardening books.  

"Kids in America" has been covered by everyone from Nirvana to the Jonas Brothers to Alvin and the Chipmunks.  The most famous cover of the song is the Muffs' 1995 version, which accompanies the opening scene of the brilliant movie, Clueless.

Here's Kim Wilde's "Kids in America":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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