Marty Wilde: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Marty Wilde Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of Marquee Records.

Born Reginald Leonard Smith in Blackheath, South London, in 1939, the boy known as ‘Marty Wilde’ had an early love for music—particularly rock ‘n’ roll.  The young boy’s love for music was fostered by his family, and by the time he was a teen in the ’50s, backed by The Wildcats, Wilde was one of the very first teen idols (in England or America) and even predated the British Invasion with his self-penned hits “Endless Sleep,” “Sea of Love,” and Bad Boy.”

In the ’60s, Wilde’s teen dreams had waned, but his songwriting career was taking off. He wrote hit singles for The Casuals (“Jesamine”) and Status Quo (“Ice in the Sun”) before going full-on glam in the ’70s and then teaming up with his pop star daughter Kim Wilde, and his son Ricky to pen “Kids in America,” which was yet another hit in 1982.

These days, Marty Wilde is 84 but remains young at heart. He continues to tour relentlessly and tells ClassicRockHistory.com that he plans to do so “’til I drop.” During a break in his endless touring, Marty Wilde beamed in with us to discuss his long career.

What first sparked your interest in music?

I fell in love with music when I was a very young child, as my father was always singing around the house. He taught me how to sing harmonies at a very young age. Growing up loving music introduced me to many different singing styles; people like Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine were great singers, but the singer that captivated me most was Elvis Presley.

When did you decide that music might be a viable career?

I left my office job in Rood Lane, London, after giving them two weeks’ notice because I was offered two weeks’ work at nightclubs in London.

Can you remember how you were discovered and signed your first recording contract?

Larry Parnes came to my home in Greenwich with a contract, and as he was the manager of Tommy Steele, I immediately accepted the offer. Decca [Records] turned me down as a Rock ‘n’ Roll artist, but fortunately, Phillips Records came to the rescue and signed me up.

Tell me about writing and recording “Endless Sleep,” “Sea of Love,” and “Bad Boy.”

The first that I ever wrote was “Bad Boy,” which became a big hit. But “Endless Sleep” was my very first hit. And “Sea of Love” came later; I loved recording all those tracks.

You were part of the first wave of British pop music—even before the British Invasion. What does that mean to you?

It’s great to have been a part of something that has been such a creative influence on all forms of pop music.

How important was your backing band, The Wildcats, to your success? 

The Wildcats played a huge part in my early success. They were all auditioned by me, and big Jim Sullivan was my lead guitarist, Brian Bennett was my drummer, Tony Belcher was my rhythm guitarist, and Licorice Locking was my bass player. They were the best group around.

Was it tough transitioning from a teen idol to an adult musician? 

The transition from a teen idol to becoming a musician was a natural progression. And I was one of the very early teenage idols, certainly in rock ‘n’ roll!

Tell me about transitioning to songwriting and working with The Casuals and Status Quo.

I began writing songs when I was around 15 years of age, and the early songs weren’t particularly brilliant. But all the time, I was learning, and eventually, I started to feel what the public wanted in a song. I didn’t personally work with The Casuals, but on the song “Ice in The Sun” with Status Quo, I provided some harmonies and a sound on the piano.

You got into glam in the ’70s. Were you entirely comfortable within that movement?

I got into glam as a subtle joke because Peter Shelly and myself were just having great fun in the studios. And eventually, I actually wore a glam outfit, which, thankfully, has never survived on TV [laughs]!

Your songwriting partnership with your son Ricky and daughter Kim seems to be the longest-lasting. What was the secret? 

I wrote with my son Ricky Wilde, and our very first song with Kim was “Kids in America.” The secret was quite simply very hard work, as we had to keep coming up against other artists that were just singing covers. So, I’m very proud of the fact that Kim’s career was so successful.

When you look back, what were your career’s high and low points? 

The high point was hearing that “Endless Sleep” had become a hit. The low points were so very few they are not worth mentioning.

Would you change anything? Is there anything you regret?

That I never learned to play the piano.

How would you like to be remembered, and what’s next in all lanes?

I would like to be remembered for the songs I wrote if that was possible, but my family is my most proud achievement. As for what’s next, I’ll be touring ’til I drop!

Marty Wilde: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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