Born in Buffalo, NY in 1950, Patrick Cowley played guitar in local rock bands in his teens until moving to San Francisco in 1971, where he began an intensive study of the synthesizer at the City College of San Francisco. Influenced by synthesizer pioneers like Wendy Carlos and Giorgio Moroder, his innovative instrumental and compositional work at the school’s Electronic Music Lab (which he founded) eventually landed him a job with disco superstar Sylvester. Cowley composed and produced the hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” “Dance Disco Heat,” and “Stars.” Soon he was remixing the work of Moroder himself, as on the epic 18-minute mix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” His own 1981 “Megatron Man” hit single is a massive touchstone for both disco and the then-emerging sound of synthpop.
Approached by gay filmmaker John Coletti in 1981 to compose the soundtrack to his latest film School Daze, Cowley instead turned over reels of his [appropriately enough] school-era recordings, including this one, the long-form “Journey Home,” where bubbling synth leads mix with didgeridoo-like bass and a slo-mo 4/4 disco thump. Though not originally conceived as gay film music, the dark, brooding synth compositions are a fitting counterpoint to Coletti’s imagery, reflecting the [then] secretive underground nature of gay culture. The otherworldly sounds were further manipulated by Coletti, varispeeded to match the pacing of his film. Sadly, Cowley passed away soon after, succumbing to AIDS in 1982.
Previously unreleased in any album format, Cowley’s recordings were fully restored, compiled, and remastered late last year on the School Daze album on Dark Entries Records, in collaboration with San Francisco gay DJ collective Honey Soundsystem.