I owned the 45 of “Hot Child in the City” in 1979, when I was 12 years old. I played this record, Nick Gilder’s one hit song, on my Panasonic stereo, in my room with the shag rug and the big headphones that I also listened to AM radio on into the wee hours. I remember the sultry, kickin’ lyrics, “She goes downtown, the boys all stop and stare,” and how I sensed that they revealed something about what it meant to grow up and be a woman. When I saw this piece by Michele O’Marah I felt a kinship, as if the words also spoke to her about certain expectations and exploitations we somewhat willfully submit to. Plus, she has a pretty great sense of color.
So it was with mostly amusement but a little chagrin that I heard my friend Jodi single out “Hot Child in the City” the other night at VietNoodle in Atwater, as a prime example of a musical genre whose name she had just coined: Cocaine Sleaze Pop. This was a late ’70s sound whose authors were skinny, androgynous creeps, the products of cocaine’s infiltration into the music world alongside synthesizers. Watching the video, with Nick in his new wave outfit and his bangs, I can hardly disagree that he seems a little weird. But hearing the song I can still tap into the thrill of my blooming adolescent sexuality and all the possibilities I believed were still in store. For that, I thank Nick Gilder from the bottom of my hot, childish heart.