909rewind Vol. 24… Patrick Cowley

Welcome to 909rewind, a series of playlists from 909originals that explores the early musical careers of some of clubland’s biggest names, uncovering hidden gems and familiar classics from the archives.

On this day (12 April) in 1982, one of the finest 12-inch remixes of all time, of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, hit the UK charts. With that in mind, the latest 909rewind playlist explores the work of the maestro behind that mix, Hi-NRG pioneer Patrick Cowley.

Cowley on stage with Sylvester in 1978, in a rare TV appearance

New York native Cowley first caught the eye for his studio work on Sylvester’s Step II, released in 1978 – which included the epoch-defining You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – a pumped-up track that would go on to influence Cowley’s own productions, commencing with the Menergy LP on dance label Fusion in 1981.

Opening with Vangelis-style lushness, the title 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…”

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.”

That same year, Cowley teamed up with producer Marty Blecman to form Megatone Records, releasing the dancefloor-powered Megatron Man, and following it up with the sci-fi themed Mind Warp a year later.

Megatron Man, released on Cowley’s own Megatone Records in 1981

Along the way he also found time to engage in some remix work, for the likes of Two Tons O’ Fun (on I Got The Feeling) and Tantra (on Hills Of Kat Mandu), as well as the legendary Donna Summer rework.

Sadly, Cowley’s career was cut short as he succumbed to complications arising from AIDS in November 1982, at the time a relatively unknown virus.

The San Francisco label Dark Entries has been a driving force in brining Cowley’s music to a new audience in recent years; check out last year’s Mechanical Fantasy Box for example, which is a stunning array of some of the late producer’s unreleased work.

For our 909rewind playlist, however, we feature a series of tracks that helped cement Cowley’s reputation as one of the most pioneering producers in disco. Enjoy!

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