“Close”: A retrospective review of Kim Wilde’s 1988 album.
by Christopher Smith
Thirty years ago, Kim Wilde released her sixth studio album “Close”. Since 1981 she had become the biggest selling British female artist of the decade, notching up hits on both sides of the Atlantic and across the rest of the world. She ‘closed’ 1987 with her duet with the late British comedy actor Mel Smith and their version of the classic “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” which was recorded in support of the then embryonic charity Comic Relief. The single reached No.3 in the UK that festive season and raised thousands of pounds for projects both in the UK and abroad.
Kim’s previous album “Another Step” (1986) had not been a particularly huge hit reaching No.40 in The States and No.73 in the UK, despite the fact it contained the US No.1/UK No.2 smash “You Keep Me Hanging On”. Kim spent much of 1987 writing and recording its follow up and in March 1988, the first fruits of that labour manifested itself with the single “Hey Mister Heartache”. With a heavier dance/pop feel to the song and guest vocals from Junior Giscombe (who had also performed on her 1987 hit “Another Step (Closer To You)”) it was not quite the comeback that had been planned. The single stopped at No.31 in the UK, although it fared much better across Europe, where it made the top twenty in Germany, Denmark, Italy and Norway.
“Close” itself was released two months later and unsurprisingly failed to chart very high. It would take something pretty big to ignite this campaign and get this album off the shelves and into people’s homes. That came in June with the release of the second track on the album “You Came”. The song was a more traditional Kim Wilde track but with elements of late-80’s panache and energy. Coupled with the release, Kim supported Michael Jackson on the European leg of his world tour and that gave great exposure to “You Came”. So much so that it took off at break-neck speed and took itself to No.3 on the UK singles chart, spending nearly three months in the top 40. It was a similar tale across Europe where it made the top 10 in a further twelve countries, although it stopped at No.41 in the US, its success elsewhere ensured it was one of the biggest sellers that Summer and would go down as one of Kim’s finest hours. Perhaps with hindsight, “You Came” should have been the lead single from this era and forsaken the near-B side quality of its predecessor.
This resulted in better sales for “Close” which now nestled itself nicely in the top 10 of many charts around the world (although the US still seemed less enthused about a Kim Wilde album, reaching, as it did, a lowly No.114 Stateside). The third single came in late September of 1988 and was track 1 on side 2 of the album “Never Trust A Stranger”. This was a much racier, enthralling track splashed with electric guitars and strong vocals that caught light from the moment it landed to the time it ends. Once again, this proved to be a superb choice for a single as it followed “You Came” into the top ten of the singles charts across Europe. Although, strangely, there was no US release for this track. Perhaps the lack of support for the album convinced Kim and her team to concentrate on countries closer to home where she was getting the chart positions and the sales to match.
Christmas 1988 saw the release of a fourth single with the easy-going ballad “Four Letter Word”, which took a slow ascent up the UK singles chart to become her third consecutive UK top ten hit in a row, when it reached No.6 in the first week of January 1989. It would also take a top ten placing in Belgium and The Netherlands. Kim’s angelic vocals and the violin backed song seemed just right for the festive season and would crown the end of a remarkable year in her career.
And as if that wasn’t enough a FIFTH single came in the early Spring of 1989 in the shape of the epic “Love In The Natural Way”, which only saw a limited release in the UK, Ireland and Germany. It would peak at No.32 in her home country, giving her five consecutive top 40 singles off one album. The first, and the last time (to date) she would achieve such a feat.
And it’s hardly surprising that with this success, “Close” itself would become Kim’s biggest selling album of her career. With Gold and Platinum certifications across Europe, the album has to date shifted more than two million copies, 400,000 of which come from the UK market, where it would reach a high of No.8, her first top ten album there since her debut back in 1981. In 2006 Kim sadly re-issued “You Came”, this time as a harder-edged pop/rock song. Although it found favour in half a dozen charts around Europe, it did not receive a UK release. I will refrain from commenting any further on that! “Close” received a glorious re-release in 2013 to celebrate its 25th anniversary as a double CD package with B sides and mixes thrown in for good measure. Kim has continued to record and recently returned to the chart with her album “Here Come The Aliens” together with a well-supported tour of the UK and Europe, exactly thirty years since her unprecedented chart success with the album “Close” and its five singles. Oh the memories…
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