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Words & Music, 2006
Songs That Stuck With Us (Hot Child in the City 1978)
By Lusa Ladourecur

Nick 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.

You wrote this song in Los Angeles.  Was it specifically about a hooker in Hollywood?
It's 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.

Would you describe yourself as one of those dream chasers?
I think everybody fits in that category at some time in their lives, that's what I was trying to say.

What was it like living and writing songs in LA at that time?
It 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.

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 of that?
That 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."

Tell us some of the many film and TV placements the song continues to get?
My 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.

 

Saturday Night, Winter 2004
Volume 119, number 1
Nick Gilder - The tight pants and makeup are  gone, and there’s a new hot child in the city (his daughter).
By Guy Saddy

  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.  “I’ve 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 it’s 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, Canada’s 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 couldn’t 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 70’s, 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 band’s 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, Gilder’s second shot at fame would have to wait until his second solo album, City Nights, was finally released.
  It took 20 weeks for the album’s single, “Hot Child in the City,” to snake it’s 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 Gilder’s 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.

 

Classic Rock Weekend ‘98, July 30 - August 2, 1998
Nick Gilder

  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 kid’s 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 it’s 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.


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