Patrick Cowley is often credited as a pioneer of electronic dance music. An early victim of the AIDS epidemic, his music lives on and is still being released to this day. The third installment of his gay porn trilogy — Afternooners — is about to be released on Oct. 19 by Dark Entries and Honey Soundsystem Records. The date is special, because that would have been Cowley’s 67th birthday.
Cowley’s extensive work with musician Sylvester gained him fame and glory. His experimentation with electronic instruments resulted in some of the most recognized disco hits, including “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” “Do You Wanna Funk” and “Megatron Man.”
In the late ’70s, San Francisco disco pioneer Cowley was contacted by John Coletti to write music for his gay porn company Fox Studio in Los Angeles. In recent years, Cowley’s work from the era has been compiled for the albums School Daze (2013) and Muscle Up (2015).
The new vinyl reissue features 70 minutes of music never before released on vinyl. All songs have been remastered by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Calif. The vinyl is housed in a gatefold jacket designed by Berlin-based artist Gwenael Rattke, featuring black and white photos of Patrick in his studio that opens to a full-color array of X-rated scenes from the Fox Studio vaults. Included is a fold-out poster featuring a handmade collage using photography and xeroxed graphics of classic gay porn imagery and an essay from Drew Daniel of Matmos.
An instrumental contributor to the development of dance music, Patrick Cowley’s influence carried far beyond his early-’80s prime. Artists like the Pet Shop Boys and New Order considered Cowley a major musical influence on their work. He explored uncharted territories of synthesizer sounds and instrument programming long before modern-day music conveniences.
During a world tour with Sylvester in late 1981, Cowley complained of feeling increasingly sick. He was initially diagnosed with food poisoning and sent home by doctors. Weeks later, with his condition only worsening, doctors failed to identify what was wrong with him. At this early stage in the history of HIV and AIDS, misdiagnosis was very common. Cowley was discharged from the hospital after doctors could do nothing more for him.
Patrick Cowley died at his home, in San Francisco, on November 12, 1982. He was 32 years old.
On Nov. 9, there will be a celebration of Cowley at CounterPulse in San Francisco.