With LGBT Pride Month in full swing, this week’s Throwback Thursday goes back to 1981, and one of the tracks that symbolised the morphing of disco into Hi-NRG.
In the late 1970s, producer Patrick Cowley‘s work on Sylvester’s Step II album (as well as an epic 15 minute megamix of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love) gave the young San Francisco producer a pedestal from which to launch a solo career.
In 1981, Cowley released the Menergy EP on Fusion Records, with its title track arguably one of the high-water marks of the Hi-NRG genre.
Opening with Vangelis-style lushness, the track descends into a pulsing electro riff backed by lyrics bursting with sexual energy: “The boys in the back room / Laughin’ it up / Shootin’ off energy / The guys in the street talk checkin’ you out / Talkin’ ’bout Menergy…”
One can only imagine what it sounded like at the Paradise Garage, or similar timeless venues of the era.
It’s also one of the first dance tracks to adopt a ‘drop’, a hallmark of modern EDM. As Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak observed in 2013, the drop in this instance is “particularly exhilarating, […] because it functions as a climax in a song so sexual. There are three of these drops that build and explode (shooting into the air like…a spaceship) in this song. “Menergy” is multi-orgasmic.”
Sadly, Cowley never got the opportunity to build on the success of Menergy, and the well-received Megatron Man album that followed; in November 1982, he died at the age of 32, an early victim of the then-relatively unknown AIDS virus.
Groundbreaking at the time, his passing meant that Cowley’s music would be forever embedded in 1982, for future musical archaeologists – New Order, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk, Pet Shop Boys et al – to unearth.
As Optimo’s JD Twitch told Dazed in 2013, “What affects me most is the fact that he was so cruelly taken away from us at such a young age. God only knows what other marvels he’d have created if he’d remained with us.”
RIP Patrick Cowley, October 19, 1950 – November 12, 1982
[Edit: for those of us that went clubbing in the late 90s, if you think the riff sounds familiar, you’d be right, it’s the main riff from Saints and Sinners’ Pushin Too Hard, released in 1999]