Marty Wilde is most definitely a one-off. After the release of his latest record, Running Together, 2020 marks not only eight decades of rock and roll for this musical icon, but eight consecutive decades of charting albums, which in turn makes him a British record holder – and ahead of his old pal, Cliff Richard. “It's always nice to beat him,” Marty says, with a smile. He got his big break at 17 years old and, along with Cliff and Tommy Steele, was soon one of Britain's leading entertainers, producing a string of top-five hits between mid-1958 to late 1959 including Teenager In Love, Sea of Love, Donna, and Endless Sleep. In a nutshell, he took the nation by storm.
Watch this full-length Headliner documentary, Wilde Ones - a deep dive into Marty's career and new album, interviews with the Wilde family, and an exclusive live acoustic performance.
81 Years Young...
“I'd always wanted to be a singer since I was a small tot, but I didn't realise it at the time,” Marty reflects. “I used to sing and play ukulele when I was 10 or 11 - I'd sing funny little songs for my father's friends, and at that age, music was the only thing I could concentrate on. At school, I was always tapping away, making jokes and singing songs... writing things down, you know?” Marty was first spotted at London's Condor Club in the 1950s – but he wasn't aware until the day after his show. “A famous songwriter – Lionel Bart – had seen me, and he told Larry Parnes, who was Tommy Steele's manager - that there was a rock and roll singer who was pretty good. He and Parnes arrived the next day at my home with a contract, which was outstanding, really. I remember my mother saying 'A man at the door wants to sign you up!'. I remember thinking 'here we go', and asking 'what's his name?' 'Larry Parnes', she said. And that was like saying Simon Cowell at the time. And I knew from that moment that it would change my life.” In his first year on the road, Marty performed for more than 40 weeks of the year. He adjusted fairly quickly to being a star - “whatever that means,” he laughs – and declares it “almost a natural process”: “Girls screamed, and you got a hit record, and that was it – but I was always looking on for the next thing. But all the way through, I never felt I was something special at all. I just felt I was doing a job; I wanted to sing and play and please people, because I got a tremendous buzz just as much as they did – I think it goes back to underachieving as a tot, and never getting much praise.” Songwriting also became as great a passion as performing for Marty, and he's penned some great ones over the years – though he admits he still doesn't find it easy. “If you asked someone to write a song to stand the test of time, they couldn't do it... [pauses] They could do it, but they would never even know they'd done it. I bet Freddie [Mercury] couldn't envisage at the time that some of those huge songs would one day fill stadiums – the same for Lennon and McCartney. You write songs, and you just don't know. “I remember Jesamine – which was a hit for a group called The Casuals. It's one of the best songs I've been a part of. I got the name [Jesamine] from a restaurant in Liverpool just because I thought it sounded nice. I then wrote the song on a tiny tape recorder, and never thought anything about it. The chap I was writing it with - Ronnie Scott, who was a great writer - said we should finish it, so we did. And the next time I heard it, it was number two or three in the charts. So you just don't know. I've always said, if you think writing hit songs is easy, I'll put you in jail and I'll let you out when you've written a hit song. You'd be there for quite a few years I'll tell you - if you ever got out at all!”
Marty has always enjoyed writing for other people – particularly women – perhaps that's why he surrounds himself with so many strong and motivated women? “I am surrounded, bullied, and motivated by strong women,” he smiles – but he means it. “I have a wonderful guiding light in my wife, Joy, and now that's been added to, which is unfortunate [smiles]. One's bad enough, but when you get another one, like Kim... [laughs] She domineers me and tells me what I'm gonna do, and my daughter Roxanne does the same, and there are some very strong women in my team. But I love it - as I'm at a time now when I need to be pushed; I need that kick up the back to get me moving. I recommend it. To any guy who's unsure about life, wondering what to do in life even: try to meet some really strong, motivated women and it'll change your life - my god, it will.” It was Marty's sixth sense, in a way, that led him to write Kids In America for daughter, Kim [Wilde] in 1980 – the hit song that would make her a star. “Kids In America was written [for a girl] in 1980. I wrote it about the new kind of girl that was surfacing - different to the subservient woman or young girl that was around in our country – it was happening particularly in America. They frightened the life out of me as they were so strong minded: she would tell the guy, not the other way round. 'I'm in charge!' So I wanted to write for teenage people - going in a very different way to the way I was used to writing. I felt women were coming along that were going to be incredibly different, and powerful - and I was 100 percent right.” Marty's new album, Running Together, is very much a family affair. He's put it together with daughters, Kim and Roxy, with some help from his son, Rick, who's forged a successful career in music production in his own right. “Most of it's happened during lockdown,” explains Kim. “The first song I was introduced to from the album was Running Together, so we had to work out how to do a lockdown video for the song! Roxy and I had to do our own takes in our respective gardens, and mum had a few problems filming dad, so I came over and helped. It was kind of cobbled together, but actually both videos for Running Together and [Marty's nod to the 1960s] 60's World have come together spontaneously, joyously, and inventively. Lockdown has meant we have been able to focus beautifully on this project.” “Yeah, it's given us time to sit back and look at what we did on the album,” concurs Roxy. “Remembering things that we may have ordinarily skipped over that are actually important, and also how to plan the album and get it out in the right way – and really concentrate on it.” “I remember when dad played [the song] Eddie to me in 2016 – on the sofa at Christmas. He was all 'yeah, it's a nice little song', which is so dad! And I said it was beautiful. The same thing happened with Running Together.”
Marty's modesty is clearly a trait – he introduced these new songs on a tour he did the following year (2017), and they fitted into the set seamlessly. From there, he continued to write, and Roxy got to sing lead on most of the new record. “Doing the arrangements and backing vocals has been great – adding lyrics, and things like that. It's been really great working with dad,” Roxy smiles. “When he played me Don't Want To Fall In Love Again, he said the same kind of thing as Kim said, and I said it was really lovely and beautiful and he said 'yeah, well who's gonna sing it?' And I said 'Errrr, me, please!' So we went in and did it, and it was such a pleasure to sing it – it's a real treat to be able to get your teeth into a lovely ballad like that.” And Marty wanted Roxy to shine on this album: “Kim and I have had our fair share of being out front – Roxy had been pushed forward by Kylie in her time working with her [as backing vocalist] but I thought 'no, push further - you go out front and I'll play guitar'. She's sang for me at the [London] Palladium before - several tracks - and she has toured with me several times, and when she does it, the audience love her. If it's gonna be your last album then let's do it for the family. And a quick word on this record, Marty – eight decades of charting albums... How does that feel? “Eight decades, my goodness me... And to beat Cliff is always a pleasure,” he reiterates, with a chuckle. “He and I have been friends and rivals for years, he has had a wonderful career and he's a good buddy - a good man - but it's lovely to beat him, as I'm very ambitious as well, you see!” And kudos to that. Check out our exclusive documentary, Wilde Ones, to get even more up close and personal with Marty and his family where they talk in detail about the new record, Marty's astonishing career, and perform an exclusive acoustic set for us at the family home. A huge thanks to all involved.