Monday, March 4, 2013

In The Nick Of Time

From time to time, whilst rummaging through a mountain of pop classics, I’ll rediscover a gem that’s been hiding away for longer than it should have.  One such nugget of delicious pop is the 1978 hit ‘Hot Child In The City’, recorded by one Nick Gilder.  After sampling the smooth, soulful song, I decided to dig a bit deeper into the career of the artist behind the hit.  What follows is the result of that casual investigation.

Nick Gilder was born in London during 1951, and at age ten emigrated to Vancouver, Canada.  His teenage years were spent attending a technical college, but a love of music saw Gilder move towards a career in a band.  In 1971, he formed a band with friend and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (not of Thunderclap Newman or Wings fame) under the cheeky title Sweeney Todd.  The glam rockers enjoyed limited success in their native Canada, but in 1975 released their eponymous debut album (CA#14) on the London Records label.  The release of the Sweeney Todd single, ‘Roxy Roller’ (written about groupies), initially met with little success.  Around the same time both Gilder and McCulloch left Sweeney Todd, due to the well worn path of internal bickering, and the duo decided to try their lucky across the border in the U.S., setting up base in Los Angeles.

Gilder and McCulloch signed to the Chrysalis, which saw the potential in some of the power pop songs the duo had penned together.  The period coincided with their former label London Records releasing the single ‘Roxy Roller’ again, with a new vocalist, but using the original backing track.  Suffice to say when Chrysalis got wind of it they slapped an injunction on it, effectively banning further airplay of the single, but not before the Sweeney Todd version had charted in Canada during 1975.  Chrysalis then had Gilder record a new version of the song for U.S. release, whilst a completely new version was released in Canada by a new Sweeney Todd lineup.  A good recipe for lawyers, but the whole episode did little sales for any of the versions of ‘Roxy Roller’, though the Nick Gilder version did chart in Australia in early ‘77 (#29), following on by an original Gilder track, ‘She’s A Star (In Her Own Right)’ (#71) had flirted with chart success a few months earlier in Canada - both tracks lifted from Gilder’s debut solo album ’You Know Who You Are’ (including re-recorded Sweeney Todd material & produced by Stuart Alan Love).  But it wouldn’t be long before Nick Gilder would become a star in his own right, and people would know who he was.

During 1977, Gilder and his label attempted to arrange acclaimed Beatles’ producer George Martin to oversee production on Gilder’s sophomore album.  When schedules couldn’t be aligned, producer Mike Chapman (Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie) stepped in to fill a breach.  Chapman had already enjoyed massive success producing acts in Britain, and was about to have his stamp of production dominate the U.S. charts.  All of the tracks for the album ‘City Nights’ (CA#13) had been written by Gilder and his song writing partner Jimmy McCulloch.  Initially the pair felt the album track ‘All Because Of Love’ should be the lead out single, but the suits at Chrysalis felt another song should be chosen, and for once they made the better judgment call.

The song they chose was a sultry, slow burning pop-rock track whose subject matter was a lot darker than the mood of the track might suggest.  Singer Nick Gilder explained the theme of the track ‘Hot Child In The City’ to Rolling Stone magazine.  Essentially it told the tale of runaway teenage girls, sold into prostitution and drug use, as relayed from the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles night life, all told through the medium of ‘an innocent pop song’.

‘Hot Child In The City’ was released in mid ‘78, and by late June regular airplay had pushed the song into the Billboard Hot 100.  But the single, in the nature of its sound, would prove a slow burner up the U.S. charts.  It would take all of 20 weeks for ‘Hot Child In The City’ to find a home atop the Billboard Hot 100, during the week ending 28 October 1978 (the longest ascent to #1 in the history of the Billboard charts to that time).  Interestingly, the song it replaced atop the charts was ‘Kiss You All Over’ by Exile (see previous post), another in the production stable of Mike Chapman, who was just about to dominate the U.S. charts in similar fashion to the U.K.  Nick Gilder’s stay at the summit was brief, as the very next week Anne Murray’s ‘You Needed Me’, offered a more innocuous subject matter in place of ‘Hot Child In The City’.

The success of ‘Hot Child In The City’ went further than a #1 hit, as at the time it became the biggest selling single in the U.S. for the Chrysalis label, and remained so until overtaken by Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ in 1980.  It also went to #1 in Gilder’s home country Canada (OZ#18), but chart success eluded Gilder in his native Britain.

The follow up single (I’d like to see you follow that), ‘Here Comes The Night’ (CA#21/US#44) predictably made only a fraction of the chart ripple that its predecessor did.  Gilder went back into the studio in early ‘79 to record his next album, but when ‘Frequency’ (CA#79) was released listeners had already tuned into another frequency.  Although, the single ‘(You Really) Rock Me’ (CA#35, US#57, OZ#95) did rock the upper reaches of the charts, albeit fleetingly.  Predictably, Gilder and his label Chrysalis parted ways following the lacklustre sales of his last album.  Casablanca Records offered a recording lifeline in 1980, and the album ‘Rock America’ (co-produced by Gilder) surfaced later that year, along with the singles ‘Wild Ones (Feeling Electric)’ (CA#22) and ‘Catch 22’ (CA#26).  Gilder recorded two more albums during the 80s, 1981’s ‘Body Talk Muzik’, and a 1985 eponymously titled set, which realised the last charting singles for Nick Gilder, ‘Let Me In’ (CA#50), and ‘Footsteps’ (CA#95), in his native Canada.  Gilder continued to write and record music, and a number of his tracks have been recorded by artists such as Bette Midler and Pat Benatar.  The 1984 hit ‘The Warrior’, recorded by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth (see previous post), was co-written by Gilder.

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