After leaving their successful British Columbia glam-rock band Sweeney Todd, Gilder and McCulloch had moved to Los Angeles, where they met numerous young people who had left small towns for the bright lights of the city. Gilder told the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, “In Los Angeles you see every walk of life ….You see a lot of would-be actors, the adventurous, the disenfranchised – [the song is] a celebration of life, ultimately, of going out and finding yourself. L.A. was a magnet for people trying to find themselves. I wanted to write this song about what I’d experienced and seen.”
Gilder explained the pop-rock Hot Child’s origins: “I initiated this one with a bass riff …. It didn’t take that long – We wrote this song quickly.”
The song’s catchy rhythm and bass line proved infectiously popular in the clubs where Gilder and McCulloch played. Gilder recalled Hot Child’s early days in Los Angeles in a 2007 interview for “Words and Music” magazine: “We started performing in places like the Whisky [Whisky A Go-Go] and 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.”
That conversation led to Gilder recording Hot Child for his second solo album, “City Nights,” using the same arrangements as they had used in live performances. Chrysalis president Terry Ellis then chose it as Gilder’s next single (Chrysalis CHS 2226); Hot Child was released in June 1978, with Backstreet Noise on the reverse. Hot Child began a leisurely climb up the charts, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart in October 1978 (setting a record for taking the longest time to reach No. 1). In contrast to Hot Child’s pop-rock stylings, the other top singles that week were the poignant ballad You Needed Me (recorded by fellow Canadian Anne Murray), and the disco classic MacArthur Park.
Gilder remembers how he felt about Hot Child’s rise to the top: “It was very exciting to watch it climb….I couldn’t be more grateful for that, to get to No. 1 in Billboard.”
In Canada, Hot Child entered the RPM Top Singles chart on July 8, 1978 at No. 100; by August 12 it had gradually risen to the Top 50, and two months later was in the Top 20. September 16 welcomed the song to the Top 10; by October 14 it found No. 1, where it remained the following week. By January 1979, Hot Child was still charting.
Gilder’s phenomenal success with Hot Child was recognized with Juno awards for Best-Selling Single and Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year, while he and McCulloch were also nominated for Composer of the Year. With Gilder’s performances on television, including “American Bandstand,” “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” “The Midnight Special,” “The Wolfman Jack Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” and many more, the single reached gold-record sales by February 1979, later going double platinum.
Capitol went on to release Hot Child on the compilation album “Solar Energy” in 1979, and it appears on “The Best of Nick Gilder” (2001). Gilder later remixed the song for his album “Long Time Coming.” It was heard on the 2009 television documentary “This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s,” and has been covered by bands such as Nemesis; Dieter Bohlen recorded a German version (Heisse Nacht In Der City). Several television shows have played the song (“Ed,” “That 70’s Show,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Sex and the City”) as well as the films “Going the Distance,” “Barb Wire,” “The Hooker with a Heart of Gold,” and “Hot Child In The City.”
In addition to its Juno, the song amassed a BMI Award and a 2006 SOCAN Classic Award. It was also chosen for RPM’s Top 125 Cancon Hits in 1992 and Top 100 Cancon Tracks 1964‒1994.
Gilder is grateful for Hot Child’s success: “Wherever it came from, thank you, because it has provided so many experiences for me in my life and has continued to provide an opportunity to get out and see people every summer all these years later. Thank you, Hot Child in the City.”
Nick (Nicholas George) Gilder was born in 1951 in London, England and moved to Vancouver with his family when he was a child. He co-founded and led the popular West-Coast rock band Sweeney Todd, inspired by British bands like Queen and Led Zeppelin. His other hits include the No. 1 hit Roxy Roller, Here Comes The Night, and Rock Me, and he has written hits for Pat Benatar, Patty Smyth (The Warrior), Bette Midler, and Joe Cocker. Gilder also toured with a re-formed Sweeney Todd.
The guitarist and songwriter Jimmy McCulloch met Nick Gilder in Vancouver, with whom he co-founded Sweeney Todd. He co-wrote with Gilder that band’s songs, including Roxy Roller as well as songs for Pat Benatar and Bette Midler.