Alphabetical Order: M


Alphabetical Order: M

Megatron Man by Patrick Cowley, 1981 Megatone Records

Patrick Cowley has already been name checked in this series, for probably his most famous moment: the barnstorming, mad as a box of electronic frogs remix of I feel Love. He deserves his own moment in the sun though, and M is surely the letter for him as his biggest hits all start with it: Mind Warp, Menergy and this epic slice of proto Hi NRG, Megatron Man.

Cowley was a true pioneer of the synth sound in modern dance music, he was born in New york where he was a drummer for a while, before going west to study the synthesizer at San Francisco City College. He really got under the hood of musical synthesis, becoming a master of the craft and pushing a new style which only later became known as Hi NRG, and which, let’s be honest here, has been responsible for many abominations over time. Cowley’s productions, however, stand above almost everything that followed in the disco offshoot genre.

Cowley was heavily involved in the sexual experimentation and gay culture prevalent in San Fransisco in the 70s and early 80s, and his music encapsulates the seedy glamour, predilection towards exploration and hedonism that surrounded him.  After hearing Cowley’s early synthesizer pieces, the mighty Sylvester drafted him into his band and the pair developed a fruitful working relationship: Cowley worked on Sylvester’s 1978 LP ‘Step II’, which included the massive ‘You Make Me Feel’ and the pair also collaborated on synth funk bombs such as the brilliant ‘Do You Wanna Funk’.

At the dawn of the eighties Cowley started up his own label, Megatone, with producer Marty Blecman, as a vehicle for Cowley’s productions both as a solo artist and as a producer for other artists, such as the aforementioned Sylvester and San Fran based Paul Parker. Cowley went into productive overdrive around this period, producing three LPs and a host of singles between 1981 and 1982, the year in which he sadly passed away at the young age of 32, having contracted AIDS. Megatron Man featured on his second LP (also called Megatron Man) and the track was released as a 12” single on a host of labels across Europe including Monotone, Ariola, Benelux and CBS disques, where it set the dancefloor of many a gay club alight.

The track itself is pure Cowley – Big crisp machine drums, phasing percussion and hats, solid up down synth bassline and massive, bright polysynth chords setting the scene before a deep vocoder, sweet high pitch arp and synthesized wooshes come along to join the party. It’s cheesy, it’s big and it’s epic but it’s also meticulously worked up with obsessive attention to detail going into the production. The almost circus like melody line will ruin it for some, but, for me, it’s the flaws that maketh the masterpiece. This is one of Cowley’s finest moments in a career that was cut so tragically short, but nevertheless left such a mountainous legacy.

By Joe Evans