October 04, 1976 12:00 PM

Anyone who shares a rock concert with Elton John is clearly going places—but where? The glitter corner at Westminster Abbey? A wax effigy at Madame Tussaud’s? Or an afterlife in Vegas? For Kiki Dee, it’s straight to the Bank of England.

Kiki’s surprise appearances during Elton’s recent U.S. tour provided the most sizzling moments to come from a female rock star since Patti Smith almost happened. Kiki strutted, writhed and jumped through her first hit, “I’ve Got the Music in Me”, and then joined Captain Fantastic for their ear-pounding duet, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”. The latter was the nation’s No. 1 hit single for five weeks and, more than anything, makes Kiki the hot new name in rock.

Elton hardly minds the competition. Kiki, a hyperkinetic 29-year-old, shares Elton’s manager and is the first female singer to be launched by his Rocket Records label. Her live-in boyfriend is Davey Johnstone, 25, Elton’s lead guitarist. Even the stage name originally proposed for her, “Kinky Dee,” seemed to forecast a life on the libertine rock circuit.

For all her rhythmic sensuality, Kiki is barely removed from a pudgy, insecure kid who was sure that her plain features would forever frustrate her career. “I wasn’t exactly Miss Glamor,” Kiki explains. She compounded her difficulties with a “really bad weight problem”—packing as much as 154 pounds on her 5’7” frame. “I’d eat for three hours,” she remembers. “It was nervous release, sexual tension, a combination of everything. Getting a handle on it was just a slow process of growing up.” (Now she’s a starved-down 126 pounds.)

In English rock star tradition Kiki grew up in a squalid industrial town, Bradford. As Pauline Matthews, the daughter of a textile mill worker, she developed her clear, penetrating voice by singing before guests in her parents’ row house. By the time she was 11, she discovered, “There was nothing else I wanted to do or was able to do.” She joined with local pickup groups and, while working as a shopgirl selling razor blades, began commuting 15 miles to Leeds to warble pop standards in a hotel ballroom. Her gutsy style led to two soon-forgotten LPs, including the first (Great Expectations) ever signed by a white female singer with Motown.

When she and Davey are not on the road, Kiki shares his tax shelter home in L.A. Otherwise she crashes in friends’ pads, hotel rooms and furnished flats. “I never have my own pots and pans,” she complains. With pals she likes to “sit around singing and playing” until dawn and then sleep it off all the next day. “I’m not really a raver who can stay up for days,” Kiki cautions.

In the meantime Kiki is getting plenty of survival advice from her friends. Elton hopes Kiki’s new LP will soften up the territory for a possible solo tour. Davey is instructing her on the guitar, and she wants to move on to piano lessons, but carefully. “I might learn too much,” Kiki warns. “I don’t want to lose that innocent ear.”

You May Like

EDIT POST