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See naked men read the sex diary of a musical genius

Oliver Keens

In an age when musicians can often come across as having the sex drive of a Ken doll after an Indian takeaway, an event next week reveals the hitherto secret sexual chronicles of a quietly pivotal man in modern music.

Patrick Cowley was a San Franciscan synthesiser genius and a groundbreaking producer, working in the late ’70s ands early ’80s. He was a maverick, who, like his contemporary Giorgio Moroder, did much to elevate the art of electronic dance music. He’s best known for working with disco icon Sylvester on hits such as ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘Do You Wanna Funk?’, and remixing Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ into a 16-minute whirl. Club hits like ‘Menergy’ and 'Die Hard Lover' also became staples on the gay scene and an almost total influence on the subsequent Hi-NRG dance genre. 

Yet while his fizzy, dancefloor-focused work served as an important influence in the sound of gay nightlife, Cowley’s sad death at 32 from a then-unknown illness, later defined as Aids, procluded him the legacy that someone of his huge talent rightfully deserved.

In recent years, though, a new generation of fans have emerged in tandem with a steady release of unheard Cowley material, which has been rebirthed by SF label Dark Entries and its boss, DJ Josh Cheon. Some of this more wigged-out work was discovered in a friend’s attic (definitely not in a closet). Reissues like ‘Afternooners’ and ‘School Daze’ were originally used as soundtracks to gay porn films, but don’t expect any bow-chikka-wow-chikka ’70s clichés: this is deeply futuristic, dubby synth genius that ranges from slow and tender to furiously pulsing and pounding.

For the latest release, ‘Mechanical Fantasy Box’, Dark Entries has also elegantly republished Cowley's erotic diary, or as Cowley himself defined it, ‘graphic accounts of one man’s sex life’ in and out of the clubs, parties, parks and bath houses of San Francisco. It’s an addictive read. Incredibly unabashed, at times almost comically salacious, it’s the journal of a liberated gay man who really, really values the fun he’s having in life. Its timing – post Stonewall and pre-Aids – makes it all the more poignant.

At a launch for the project in London at the end of November, who better to read extracts from the journal than London literary salon Naked Boys Reading? They’re essentially a bunch of buff studs who can get their mouths around any, er, declension.

We’re sure Cowley would approve.

Naked Boys Reading: ‘Patrick Cowley’s Sex Journals’ takes place at Ace Hotel on Nov 28. Here's a highlight from the latest reissues from Patrick Cowley's archive below, and here's where to pick up the album. And here's a bunch of ways to party this Xmas too.

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