An early Billy Idol song, the punk rocker wrote it himself. It's all about running wild and free in New York City on a summer night, something Idol did plenty when he moved to New York from London in 1981 after his band Generation X split up. Idol found himself once again moving to an unfamiliar city to follow his dreams: in 1976 he left his hometown of Bromley, England and moved to London. This song reflects his optimism and assurance:
Don't be afraid of the world we made On a hot summer night
This was Idol's second single as a solo artist, following his cover of "Mony Mony." That one stalled at #107, which Idol blamed on the packaging: the cover art showed him as a fully fledged punk rocker, with spiked hair and his trademark snarl. This apparently dissuaded American program directors, most of whom were unfamiliar with Idol, from giving it a chance. So, the "Hot In The City" single was issued in America with no Billy on the cover, just an overhead shot of a city street.
The ploy apparently worked, as the song got plenty of airplay and rose to #24 in America, clearing a path for Idol's successful solo career.
Keith Forsey, who worked with Idol when he was with Generation X, produced this track and the rest of the Billy Idol album. Forsey, who produced every Idol album through Charmed Life (1990), became one of the top hitmakers of the '80s, with writing and production credits on three #1 hits: Irene Cara's "Flashdance... What a Feeling," Simple Minds "Don't You (Forget About Me)," and Bob Seger's "Shakedown."
This was Idol's first solo effort that came with a music video. Directed by Kort Falkenberg III, it relied on computer effects that looked very dated a few years later. Still, the video did well on MTV and started a long and fruitful relationship between Idol and the network.
In 1987, this song was reissued as a single and included on Idol's greatest hits package Idol Songs: 11 of the Best. This time, it made #13 UK (it made #58 the first time) and #48 US. A new video was shot, this time directed by Larry Jordan. This version is far more prurient, with various bondage references and shot of Idol's girlfriend Perri Lister strapped to a cross. Lister, who as part of the dance group Hot Gossip appeared in a number of videos, also played the bride in Idol's "White Wedding" clip and showed up in "Rebel Yell" and "Eyes Without A Face" (she does the French vocal in that song).
Many of the lyrics aren't that easy to understand, but Idol is very clear when he sings the line, "I can really feel the heat now... New York!"
Idol's record company, Chrysalis, created customized versions of the song with "New York" replaced with the names of various other cities, and those versions were sent to radio stations in those cities, giving them custom versions of the track for their local listeners. So if you were in Kentucky, you might hear Idol sing, "I can really feel the heat now... Lexington!"