It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture sweaty, half-naked men exploring the bounds of their bodies while Patrick Cowley’s 1981 track “Menergy” blasts from the speakers. Mostly because Cowley set out to make a song that captured just that! 

“The boys in the back room/Laughin’ it up, Shootin’ off energy/The guys in the street talk checkin’ you out/Talkin’ ’bout Menergy,” goes one part of the song. The other lyrics push forward with, “The boys in the bedroom lovin’ it up/Shootin’ off energy/We all know the feelin’, it’s no mistery/Talkin’ ’bout Menergy.”

We’ve ALL been there in one way or another, and Cowley doesn’t just know that… he’s been there, too! And he put a soundtrack to it. Over 40 years since its release, “Menergy” can still slip into any Pride playlist today and feel fresh, modern, and fun.

Although he reportedly kept a low profile compared to his frequent music collaborator and flamboyantly androgynous friend Sylvester, Cowley is considered the daddy of hi-NRG music — an up-tempo blend of industrial-bodied disco that brings parties to its peak. Basically, the moment when you’d want to hit the poppers on the dancefloor.

Born in Buffalo, New York, he found himself on the West coast. “Menergy” serves as an ode to LA’s ’80s gay scene, where Cowley honed his sound as a producer and musician.

But just as his star was taking off, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was silently taking hold, and Cowley became one of its first victims. A New York Times article recalls a wheelchair-bound Cowley at the listening party for his third studio album, Mind Warp, in October 1982. 

“Mr. Cowley looked ashen against his stark ensemble, his friend Theresa McGinley recalled in a recent interview, overseeing the party from his wheelchair,” NYT reports. 

NRG singer Paul Parker and Sylvester performed while a crowd, which included Cowley’s business and Megatone Records partner Marty Blecman, looked on and danced. 

Blecman later wrote of the moment, “Tears were streaming down his face, and he said, ‘Those stupid queens, don’t they know?’”

The “know” Cowley was referring to was undoubtedly the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which would take his life a mere month later at age 32. Six years later, Sylvester was dead at age 41 of the same. Then Blecman in 1991.

But the contributions they made to queer music live on even today.

Cowley played synthesizer on Sylvester’s 1978 album “Step II,” contributing to the hits such as “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat)” that propelled Sylvester to gay icon status. Although he did not get to live to see the full impact of his album “Mind Warp,” Cowley knew he was opening doors with the success of singles “Megatron Man” and “Menergy.” 

The songs hit #2 and #1 respectively on the 1981 Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play and their successes drove Cowley to pull together “Mind Warp” despite being in the throes of battling AIDS. 

In 1984, a posthumous version of “Menergy” was released with Sylvester delivering the lyrics, and listening to the song now truly feels like a match made in gay heaven.

Listen to both 8-minute original and the 5-minute Sylvester feature of the track below and let the “Menergy” wash over you.

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