& Music, 2006
That Stuck With Us (Hot Child in the City 1978)
Gilder, the British born, Vancouver based singer/songwriter, has
scored dozens of hits since his band, Sweeney Todd burst on the scene
with "Roxy Roller" in 1975, writing for such name acts as
Bette Midler, Joe Cocker, Pat Benatar. But it was a track from
his second solo album that earned him the tag "Nabovov of the
jukebox" from Rolling Stone. "Hot Child in the
City" is a steamy strutting piece of power pop that took almost
a year to reach No. 1 and has never fallen off our list of Canadian Classics.
wrote this song in Los Angeles. Was it specifically about a
hooker in Hollywood?
a metaphorical song, but it didn't start with lyrics. It
started with a feel, a bass lick that I sang to Jim and we just built
it from there. I sort of talk about the sights and sounds of
the late 70's in Los Angeles, people coming to discover
themselves. The "hot" was really about being on fire
with the passion of self-discovery. There were a lot of young
people there running away to become stars.
you describe yourself as one of those dream chasers?
think everybody fits in that category at some time in their lives,
that's what I was trying to say.
was it like living and writing songs in LA at that time?
was back in the day when record companies would spend hundred of
thousands of dollars developing artists. And I gotta tell you,
I really enjoyed that! We had a house with a swimming
pool. Jim and I spent a year writing our first album
there. One A&R guy said we should get back to the critical
source, playing live, and he was absolutely right. That band
feeling has always been the great motivator in our career. So
we started performing in places like the Whiskey, the Troubadour,
where "Hot Child in the City" got a really good audience
response. Mike Chapman, the producer who had worked with Sweet and
Blondie, came down and heard it and said we should record it.
was the first hit for Chrysalis Records, a label that went on to
dominate the 80's new wave scene. What was it like to be part
song really paved that way for Billy Idol, Pat Benatar - on and
on. We went to see Blondie in Illinois, and after the show
Debbie (Harry) says, "Nick I wish we had a bit hit like "Hot
Child in the City." I said, "Wait till they release
"Heart of Glass."
us some of the many film and TV placements the song continues to get?
wife woke me up one night recently to tell me it was on
Nip/Tuck. It was a very furtive scene. A young lady
perched in a precarious position. Good fun! We really get
good licenses on this song. When I signed with Chrysalis they
wanted the publishing, but I had already signed a deal, which I was
able to improve further some years later with EMI. They're
doing a really good job this year. I wouldn't be surprised to
see someone do a cover and have a hit with it all over again.
Night, Winter 2004
119, number 1
Gilder - The tight pants and makeup are gone, and theres
a new hot child in the city (his daughter).
Picture the rock star in repose. His hair no longer feathered,
the pants not so nearly tight. The thick pancake makeup,
hallmark of the flamboyant stage act, was put away decades ago.
Today the squeals of groupies are a memory, displaced by the cries of
three-year-old daughter, the first child from his second
marriage. Ive gotta go watch Elizabeth, he
says on the phone. Mind if I call you back in an
hour? Picture the rock star up to his knees in
Fisher-Price and Baby Gap.
Much has changed for Nick Gilder since 1978, when he crested the
Billboard Hot 100 with Hot Child in the City, a song so
loaded with hooks you can probably still sing all three minutes and
45 seconds of it a quarter century after its debut. In
the United States, the song made him famous. And yet in Canada,
Gilder is also remembered for something slightly more obscure; being
front man for Sweeney Todd, Canadas first true glam rock band.
Born in London, England in 1951, within the sound of Bow
Bells, Gilder escaped a cockney fate by moving to Canada with
his family when he was just a boy. After flirting with a return
to England, they eventually settled in Vancouver. At 20, Gilder
struck up with guitarist James McCulloch and formed what would
eventually become Sweeney Todd, named after the demon
barber of Fleet Street. At first, they were just another
cover band. But ch-ch-changes were in the air,
Gradually, says Gilder, we started doing this
other thing. The other thing? Loads of
makeup and glitter, standard issue uniform of the new gender-blending
glam rock movement. It was just another way to jam with
the culture of the day, he recalls. It got us
attention. And then, you know, we added our own songs.
The band's first single was Roxy Roller. A catchy
seven-chord jewel, it fit the glam Zeitgeist like a pair of spandex
tights. The timing couldnt have been better. Alice
Cooper had yet to become a self-parody, and David Bowie had set the
stage with his Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane phase. The New York
Dolls and T. Rex rounded out what was, in the mid 70s, a
still-vibrant scene. Into this mix slipped Sweeney Todd - or,
more specifically, Nick Gilder, whose high, almost girlish vocals and
androgynous sexuality made him the bands riveting focal
point. As the hit climbed the Canadian charts, an American
breakthrough seems inevitable.
It would never happen. As this nation embraced Roxy
Roller, Sweeney Todd, as we knew it, was finished.
Gilder, however, was just getting started. When the single
peaked in Canada, Gilder and McCulloch left the band for Los Angeles,
lured by juicy record company promises. Initially, the plan was
to release a solo album with Roxy Roller as the single -
except that the remaining members of Sweeney Todd beat Gilder to the
punch in the US, by releasing their own newly recorded (and coolly
received) version of the song. His thunder stolen, Gilders
second shot at fame would have to wait until his second solo album,
City Nights, was finally released.
It took 20 weeks for the albums single, Hot Child in the
City, to snake its way up the charts, at the time the
most leisurely ascension to number 1 ever. But when it finally
peaked in October 1978, it was as if Gilder had been around for
years. The song was brilliant, the little-bad-girl-lost
lyric, provocative. So young to be loose and on her
own/young boys they all want to take her home. Rolling
Stone magazine referred to Gilder as the Nabokov of the
Jukebox. At the time, he seemed unstoppable, a long
career assured. And then it stopped.
Over the next seven years, Gilder released four more albums, but
they never touched the success as his sophomore effort.
Eventually, he began to operate behind the scenes, writing songs for
anyone from Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Pat Benatar - to the group
Scandal - their 1984 hit, The Warrior, was penned by
Gilder. It would be the last time, even vicariously, that he
would reach the top 10. As for Sweeney Todd, they continued on
after Gilder and McCulloch left, but the new unit never caught
fire. Finally, in 1977 they called it quits when their new lead
singer - chosen because he could imitate Gilders distinctive
vocals for their reworked version of Roxy - left the band
- Bryan Adams, 17, decided to go back to school.
In 1994, after his breakup with his first marriage, Gilder returned
to the Vancouver area. Since moving back, he's remarried and
released four albums (two with new songs, two with reissued versions
of old ones). A CD tentatively titled, A Night On The
Town, A Day In The Country is slated for release early this
year. But the days of eyeshadow and excess are a lifetime
ago. It was fun, he says. And it still
is. San makeup. And still rockin, man.
He must go, he says, Elizabeth needs him.
Rock Weekend 98, July 30 - August 2, 1998
When the Beatles and the Stones took the stage on the Ed Sullivan
Show in the seminal sixties, could anyone have known the impact
R&R music was about to have on generations to come? This
kids perspective of She Loves You and Time Is
On My Side was certainly affected by the realization that these
four lads and rebellious rocker's phenomena has changed the world as
we know it.
And then somehow it was my turn to rock too, an ongoing coming of
age of sorts. I wanted to stand in that light, what were the
stories all about, the movies, can you still see in a light as bright
as burning naked fame, the shock-rock days of circa 70s, and a rock
group, Sweeney Todd. Vancouver product of post psychedelic
flower power and peace, more angst and grit though, and an audience
that often looked like neon signs with hairdos that could do damage
at the right angles.
A #1 song Roxy Roller, 3 Junos, BMI airplay awards,
deals, LA, George Martin (I worked with the Beatles producer,
amazing!), Mike Chapman, Terry Ellis, Annie Liebovich, Playboy
photographers, another #1 song, Hot Child, The
Warrior with Patty Smyth, those "Hi sweetheart I miss you
too" phone calls miles away. Proving its the rhythm
of the heart that moves us and brings us home somehow every night to
our meeting places. Doorways of our big bang-bang
heartbeat stories that find us climbing the stairways. Glitter
to gold with you, with me.