- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
When Kylie Minogue first visited London in the summer of 1987, she was still known as Charlene Mitchell, Neighbours’ tomboy teenage mechanic. When she was dispatched halfway around the world for a week in order to gauge her international pop appeal at songwriters’ Stock, Aitken and Waterman Hit Factory on Borough High Street, Minogue was 19 years old.
For six consecutive days she turned up to work, only to be sent packing to see the sights, so high was the demand for record producer Pete Waterman’s magic pop touch at the time. On day seven, Waterman’s fellow hitmaker Matt Aitken was informed of the presence of an Australian soap actress sitting in reception, waiting to record with the trio. “She should be so lucky,” he noted, accidentally igniting an iconic 34-year love affair between Kylie Minogue and her chosen home.
Between 1991-2021, London has been Kylie’s most enduring, tenacious and thrilling romance. Her Chelsea postcode has housed one of pop’s most mesmerising and consistent arcs, dotted with brilliantly high voltage songs of innocence to experience. This week, Kylie announced the end of the affair. Less lachrymose heartbreak, more conscious uncoupling, as she heads back to Australia to enjoy her autumnal years.
During her three London decades here, Kylie has become emblematic of the city’s habit for locating its inner camp and letting its hair down. She is living proof of London’s instinctive knack for unlocking the best version of yourself, should you be open and curious enough to let it. Kylie has been London’s pre-eminent club kid, fashion plate, gay heroine, resident cabaret diva and most eligible bachelorette, often all at once. She is the happiness in the room. The innocent Minogue who landed has alchemised into an imported Joanna Lumley or Helen Mirren in waiting, one of the city’s unequivocal people’s Dames. It’s oddly unimaginable to think of the city without her in it, sashaying up and down the Kings Road.
On arrival, Minogue quickly became synonymous with the best of the city, displaying an expert’s homing device for locating exactly the right place at the right time. She spent her arriviste years in the bars of Soho, when the orange and white furnishings of Riki Tik made it the place to be and be seen in the mid-to-late Nineties. She’d be spotted by excitable queens shopping in the Michiko Koshino store or dancing at The Gardening Club in a Pam Hogg one-piece. She got stuck in, quickly.
Kylie tripped through the tail-end of Kensington Market and Hyper-Hyper, tracing the curve of British fashion as it became something more daring, dazzling and global under Galliano and McQueen. She was photographed and styled by the greats – Juergen Teller, Steven Meisel, Judy Blame – at the precise moment London style titles peaked.
She flew on the tailwinds of Britpop as its chic accomplice, rolling around a bed with Bobby Gillespie on the cover of Select magazine, reading poetry on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with Nick Cave, covering Saint Etienne songs. She took a chance on the new – finding her longest-standing stylist, William Baker, while he was working the counter of the Conduit Street Vivienne Westwood store and elevating the visionary young pop video auteur Dawn Shadforth to capture her Spinning Around in gold hotpants.
In 2007, she launched an album by DJ-ing at Hoxton Square Sunday nightspot, Boombox with erstwhile London nightlife favourite, Princess Julia, escaping the decks to jump on a bartop and freestyle to Girls Aloud. For her 50th birthday party, she turned the secret room at Chiltern Firehouse into a gossip chamber. Kylie Minogue knew everybody interesting in London because everybody interesting in London, at one point or another, wanted to know Kylie Minogue. There wasn’t a furtive corner of the city she didn’t commandeer.
As gay men, we sat back and watched, slack-jawed as she reinvented her suburban DNA into stone cold Metropolitan ambition. For 30 years, Kylie has been the capital’s walking fairy-dust, its joy valve. She was the realisation of all London’s hopeful interlopers.
Throughout it all, Ms Minogue has earned herself every right to kick off her heels, reconnect with family, sip a cocktail on a sun-kissed Australian beach and call time on her London life. But every Londoner who saw a little piece of themselves in the personal transubstantiation of Kylie will miss her deeply. She exits, as she arrived, with a smile.