PATRICK  COWLEY   

" THE  SAN  FRANCISCO  SOUND "              
 
OFFICIAL  BIOGRAPHY: 1950-1982

                                                              by  Daniel Heinzmann

 


             "This site has been dedicated in memory of Patrick but also to Jo-Carol Block sadly passed away in the early 2003."

 

In my life there was a time after and before Patrick Cowley, and I’m sure many people recalls what they were doing while listening Patrick’s hits. He is inmortal.

This is my modest tribute to his work, his life and all people who supported him.  

 

                              "Patrick Cowley forged an electronic sound so new and exciting that it shook the foundations of dance music for years and is still influencing current artists with its haunting simplicity and powerful, driving energy.               
                               While many of his contemporaries in the field of electronic music used the technology to create synthesized replications of already existing

sounds and rhythms, Patrick Cowley brought the future to them and laid it at their feet." ( DAVID DIEBOLD )

 

 

 

 

                              "Patrick Cowley is inmortal because he lives now in each keyboard or computer and in every heart of the people  who love him and listen him actually."  (FELIPE NIEVES CRUZ -fan and producer-México)

                      "Patrick Cowley is unique, incomparable, and, though years go by, his music always sounds fresh. Yet, up to now, there has been  nobody in the world who can be like him."  (GUADALUPE HUITRON -fan-México)

 

 

PATRICK  COWLEY : THE  FAMILY                                     

PATRICK JOSEPH COWLEY , " Pat ", as he was named, was born on October 19, 1950, in Buffalo, under the sign of Libra. He grew up in the north of New York, with his brothers.
Patrick was the second of them. James was the oldest (born in 1948 ) , then Patrick, then Mariellen and lastly Madonna, the youngest (no relation with the siger ). 

His father, Kenneth Cowley, who had lived on his block in Buffalo for almost 40 years, sadly passed on January 2005 at 85 and his mother Ellen died about 13 months after Patrick. Patrick's grandfather was Bernard Cowley. 

The branch of his family tree comes from the Horseheads and Corning NY area. There he was a drummer in garage style bands. He could play guitar, and keyboard, but his keyboard playing was by ear, though limited, but it contributed to keep his songs simple yet strong. He studied English at Buffalo's university.

Patrick used to bring his nephews great gifts from wherever he had been on tour and bring them the tapes of his concerts that they would dance along to.
 Patrick had his drum in the basement and would drive everyone crazy with the loud music, as his sisters can remember today, but Patrick's parents were very supportive of his dreams of making music.  

 

 

 

Left: Patrick and Bernice Hatch (neighbour and friend)
Center : Kenneth Cowley (father) in an interview by Anthony Violanti in 1984 (Buffalo News Staff Writer)
Right : Pat Cowley

 

 

                  “Hi, I am not sure who is on the receiving end of this guest book but I grew up with Pat, we used to call him Patty. He lived down the street from me and he was my first boyfriend. I lived on Weyand St in South Buffalo and he and I attended St Teresa's elementary school together. I just came across his name on google. He and I were friends all through our teenage years. I often think of him and it still makes me sad that he died so young. “ (BERNICE BERTA HATCH, Rochester, NY)

 

                 "Patrick came home one day and said, ' I'll never be able to get the music I want here. He just said, 'I'm going to San Francisco” "His music was his whole life. He didn't take care about clothes, money, even his health. Nothing meant as much to him as his music. " .( KENNETH COWLEY )

With big ambitions but little money, Patrick told his parents he wanted to hitchhike west. Though worried about him, they knew his independent nature, and agreed to let him try to find what he wanted.

Ken Cowley then asked his son if he could drive him to the Thruway, where the journey would begin. Patrick got out of the car in his jeans and army jacket and hoisted his knapsack to his back. Then he walked back to his father and gave him a hug.

              "I watched him walk away and start hitchhicking. Then I got back in the car, I had a lunp in my throat. It's very emotional to say good-bye to your son like that. I watched him through the rear-view mirror as I drove away. It was a moment I'll never forget. (KENNETH COWLEY )

              "We had no idea the illness was so bad, the Doctor's couldn't tell Patrick what exactly was wrong. In a way, I wish he were more well known in Buffalo. Right now, we've got Rick James and he's great, but it seems to me we should be aware of other people who have made their marks- people lik Patrick. His music is important, his music was his life. ", (KENNETH COWLEY )

 

 

Patrick Cowley original handwriting.

 

 

 

BEGINNING : with ARTHUR  ADCOCK  and  MAURICE TANI

In 1971, at the age of 21, he moved from Rochester to the San Francisco Bay Area  to begin his synthesizer studies at the City College of San Francisco. and later making his own recordings and productions.
In 1972 Jerry Mueller started the Electronic Music Lab at City College of San Francisco. There were three students in the class : Arthur Adcock, Jerry Judnick and Patrick Cowley.  Six months later Maurice Tani joined the group. They used to meet for class in Mueller's basement until a room became available at the college.


                            " Patrick and I played in a couple of bands together, created radio jingles, songs, electronic pieces, costumes, back up singers....all kind of stuff. His disco music was really just the latest thing he has done. He was the student in charge in the Electronic Music Lab while other student used the school's equipment.  Patrick, Arthur and I continued to do a lot of experimental music, blending various types of music and adapting them to the synth. Some avant-garde, artsy stuff. After Patrick made some money with Megatron Man, he bought his own Electrocomp synthesizer and an Otari 1/2'' 8-track machine. "  (MAURICE TANI )

 

 

 

Left : Patrick
Center : (San francisco 1974) playing drums at Arthur Adcock's house.
Right : (1976) Maurice Tani and Patrick, cut out of a band publicity photo.

 

 

 

At the time there were only three brands of synthesizers available : 'Moog', which was the name that most people associated with music synthesis and which was expensive, 'Buchla', also expensive, and 'Putney', made in England and relatively cheap. So they bought a 'Putney'; It had a pin-matrix instead of patch cords, but it worked quite well. Later, they switched to an E-mu system (which Patrick used ) and finally to a 'Serge' synthesizer, which was ,and still is, excellent; It's the only analog piece of equipment left in the City College's digital studio nowadays.

 

                 "Patrick was a master of the E-mu system, but he did it intuitively. Everyone else could talk the lingo: 'This oscillator is modulating the filter', but Patrick couldn't tell you how he got his sounds; he just did it. One day,  I came into the studio and heard a tune called 'A White Shade Of Pale". I assumed Patrick was playing a tape, but it turned out he'd synthesized the whole thing ! Not an easy thing to do !
(JERRY MUELLER )

 

 

 

E-MU System synthesizer. Patrick was a master on the E-mu system at the City College in 1973

 

 


                         
" Arthur Adcock had a little money from his family and bought his own Electrocomp system. He was very generous with his equipment and would let Patrick come over and use the gear a couple days a week. Patrick introduced me to Arthur and we all shared the gear for the next few years. Patrick, Arthur and I formed a production company called Short Circuit that produced musical segues, 'stingers', sound effects for radio stations, etc. "  (MAURICE TANI )

 

 

  His career as a songwriter began when Sylvester, another San Francisco based musician, asked him to join  his studio, after listening to what he was doing with synthesizers. He was amazed with Patrick's innovative technologies.
  Here is a review of the main dance music clubs that existed  in San Francisco at the end of the 70's and wherever "disco Music" was developing :

Mind Shaft ( on Market Street) , I-Beam (on Height Street),  Dreamland ( on Harrison Street) ,  Disco International ( in Oakland) ,  Trocadero Transfer ( on Fourth Street),  Dance Your Ass Off ( in North Beach) and most famous of all  “The City” ( on Montgomery and  Broadway).

  Patrick was employed as The City's light technician, in North Beach,  in the basement showroom where Sylvester's band was making shows.  The City was the biggest and most important gay disco club in the Bay Area and Sylvester with his band played a demo ("You Make Me Feel") so  Patrick could make the modern arrangements.

The band had no idea at all that he was doing music, he kind of kept it under the hat for a long time. He let them hear some tapes he had recorded . He asked them if they would like to go down and do backups music on some songs he'd been working on.

 

 

 PATRICK & JORGE SOCARRAS

 

                 " In the mid-late 70's, before I started 'Indoor Life' , Patrick and I were best friends for many years and  produced over an album's worth of very edgy new-wave material under two names: 1) Catholic 2) Lesser Man. 

                  We tried to get his label to release it, but it was way too out there for him. These songs, highly influenced by the likes of Eno, Devo, Nico, and other two-syllable names, feature him playing most synths parts, and my singing, with some guest spots by Sylvester's band. 

                 Patrick was surrounded himself with people from many styles of music: disco, rock, gospel, new wave, ... and I was the most new-wave. That was so amazing in Patrick."     
( JORGE SOCARRAS )



Left: (1976)Jorge Socarras (singer of Indoor Life) and Pat, proposed record cover for the duo Catholic. Artwork shot by Archie Connely aka Archie Style.
Center: Patrick in the old times.
Right : Jorge Socarras today

 



Shots of 'Catholic', finally released in 2009 by Stefan Goldman from Macro Recordings (Germany)
with Jorge Socarras and Stefan as executive producers.

 

                               "It nothing less then a "once in a lifetime" sensation that Macro announces the release of a full unreleased Cowley album written and performed in collaboration with Indoor Life vocalist Jorge Socarras. This one is no re-issue, no material scapped by the original artists - but a work Cowley took 5 years to perfect. The original release got delayed for 3 decades due to Cowley's tragic death due to AIDS in 1982.

                  Recordeed betweeen 1976 an 1979 , "Catholic" is a genge-bending concept album with a range from minimalistic photo-techno to synth-driven post-punk-pre- dating acts like LCD soundsistem and by almost 30 years. It shows a much broader range than any Cowley or Socarras material available and gives a totally new perspective to one of the most inspiring eras in music history. The album hit the stores for Patric Cowley's birthday on October 19th, 2009. The first single from the album is 'Soon', out September 7th , featuring remixes by Morgan Geist of Metro Area and KINK of Rush Hour as well as the original track 'Robot Children'. " ( STEFAN GOLDMANN  , MACRO RECORDINGS. )

 

It was really quite astonishing for them to hear those powerful and innovative sounds. Patrick did "kickin' In" and "Love Me Hot" which have  never been released as well as  many others which surely  still remain in Megatone's vault  (today Unidisc) . It was just at that moment when Sylvester became very intent on somehow integrating that synthesized music into their basic R&B (Rhythm and Blues) sound of that time, hired Patrick who, since then (1978) would go with him on tour by Southamerica and Europe with his keyboards and synthesizers.  

 

   

 

 

  Left: (1982) left to right Michael Finden, Frank Loverde, Linda Imperial, James Tip Wirrick and Patrick in San Francisco.
Right: (1976) Patrick (4 th ) in a band playing at Embarcadero Center in downtown San francisco. Sexy Candida Royale ( 5 th ) on stage and Maurice tani (2 nd).

 

 

 

By then, Sylvester was working on his second album, with his guitar player and songwriter James 'Tip' Wirrick ,who  later became his producer. Patrick and Tip Wirrick were neighbour in San Francisco; they would  become very close friends. There was a little tension in the beggining between Patrick and the other band members. They didn't give him much credibility as a player at the time because his sound and techniques were quiet ahead of the times for 1978 .However things really started to change after a while and he eventually became a very respected and beloved member of that group. 

 

 

Left: James Tip Wirrick, Patrick’s fellow in Sylvester’s band.
Right : Maurice Tani today.

 

 

 

                                      "Patrick Cowley came along and basically created a sound in music that became known around the world as a San Francisco identity sound. It was a druggy sound. It was an 'up' sound. Patrick created a synthesized sound that would enhance a drug induced high and the song which really launched that sound was 'Menergy'. " (CASEY JONES)   

  

                               "Patrick has a lot of fun to work with. He'd say : 'Hey, let's have a joint and make some music', and that's just what we did. Of course that was before he ever started getting sick. We always had a good time."  (LAUREN CARTER)

 

 

 

 PATRICK COWLEY and  FRANCESCA ROSA

                               “   Patrick Cowley and I were friends throughout the seventies and into the early eighties up until the time he died. We were roommates on and off on at least three separate occasions in San Francisco—in households both big and small. I first met him in Buffalo, New York where he had grown up. I had gone to high school in a small town outside Buffalo, and of course ran off to the big city from time to time. I can’t remember the exact circumstances where or when we met but it was probably around 1970 or 71.

                              I have to say that it is a bit unsettling to realize that the guy I bickered with (like all roommates do) about the phone bill or over whose turn it was to do the dishes or sweep the floor, or turn that g*dd**n volume down (or up) for g*d sakes I’m trying to sleep! is now internationally famous, but that being said, I think it is a wonderful and well deserved thing, since one of the very best things about living with Patrick and being his friend was getting to listen on a regular basis to the impromptu synthesizer concerts he would perform at home when the mood (or maybe I should say the moog) struck him. He played for roommates, friends, boy friends (lots!), and sometimes, if I was the only person around, just for me. He played all kind of things including the rough cuts and embryonic tracks of songs he worked on with Sylvester, things he worked on with Jorge Soccarras, Paul Parker and others and later what became Megatron man, and all kinds of other things too, sometimes he just liked to jam and see what happened. It was very informal and a lot of fun. In this way he was able to practice and hone his craft for an audience, even if it was an audience of one or two, and entertain his friends at the same time, and this created a real bond. Patrick eventually had a studio South of Market (SOMA) St, but he still always had a little home studio and a portable synthesizer. “ (FRANCESCA ROSA )

 

Francesca Rosa: Patrick’s roomate in San Francisco in the early 70’s.

 

                     “Patrick had  a continual battle with the cockroaches that kept invading his room from the kitchen, and nesting inside the piano. He’d start to play and then they’d start jumping out of it. This drove him crazy for obvious reasons and one day he went absolutely wild with the bug spray. Another epic moment on Central St. We may not of had a lot of money, but we weren’t bored in those days.

                        Patrick was a very neat, orderly person, and even the less fastidious of us in the household tried to keep the kitchen clean since roaches can live forever on very little, but it seemed that every apartment in the Haight was cockroach heaven, and they and Patrick did battle over that piano for a long time. This was the downside of cheap rent, which the roaches also really liked. As amazing as San Francisco was at that time it definitely had its real funky side.

                          So as Patrick’s career was beginning to take off Patrick’s health dramatically deteriorated. He lost large amounts of weight, he had a severe case of thrush in his mouth, his hair went from very thick and curly honey blond to a thin almost translucent fuzz on his head. He developed carposi lesions. He was dizzy all the time, and coughing all the time. Then more in and out of the hospital and he had all kinds of tests and procedures, much more serious than the first round of hospital stays, etc.

                             But to back track–by the last few weeks we were taking turns twisting a white handkerchief or wash cloth soaked in water into Patrick’s mouth so that he could get a bit of liquid since he could no longer drink out of a glass or hold anything down, and this was the way they told us to do it. Drop by drop. He was a wraith then, Skeleton Man and semi–comatose but he still had those enormous blue eyes, clouded over by then, but still these big pools, and I just remember looking into them and dripping water into his mouth and wondering if he had any idea who any of us were. I was glad his father had come early enough from Buffalo, N.Y. to really be a support to him and when Patrick was still fully cogent.

                            It’s been over twenty-five years since Patrick died. I still live in San Francisco, And sometimes I’ll be walking down the street or walking by a club somewhere and I’ll hear some Sylvester song coming off a car speaker or something, all that Cowley synthesizer joyously blasting and roiling away and I’ll think, there’s my old roommate again. “  (October 15th, 2009 – FRANCESCA ROSA )



                                 

 

 

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