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A Number of Names

A Number of Names was the short-lived group responsible for one of the first techno releases that came from Detroit. Thanks to their lone release, the Italo disco inspired "Sharevari" b/w "Skitso," it could be said that A Number of Names, along with Juan Atkins' and Rick Davis' Cybotron, the outfit that released "Alleys of Your Mind" around the same time as "Sharevari" in 1981, were proto-techno as much as the Stooges and MC5 were proto-punk. Both techno and punk took roughly the same amount of time to become fully realized styles after the appearance of their forebears. Coincidentally, each of these forebears came from Detroit and the area surrounding it.

In 1981, high schoolers Paul Lesley and Sterling Jones decided to finalize their long-brewing plans to form a music group. Inspired by Capriccio, the posh and clique-ish party club that they belonged to (one of many at that time in Detroit), the duo recorded "Sharevari" during the summer of the group's year of formation with the help of several others. While Lesley contributed the lead vocals and bass synth and Jones wrote the lyrics, the song was arranged by Judson Powell and Robert Taylor. Taylor also provided the vocals on the chorus, which were mutated by synth effects. Roderick Simpson, who also received a songwriting credit, played the main melody. Sheila Wheaton and Ira Cash provided the backup vocals that followed the chorus in a quasi-call-and-response manner.

"Sharevari," as a song title, was a play on the name of another Detroit party club, Charivari. Additionally, the club Charivari took its name from a chain of upscale clothing shops, so Lesley and Jones opted to alter the spelling of their song in order to sidestep any possible legal issues. They took an unfinished version of the song into one of the Charivari parties, had it played by DJ Darryl Shannon, and -- judging from the crowd's reaction -- discovered that they had something big on their hands. Legendary radio jock the Electrifying Mojo was in attendance at the party and invited the unnamed group that was responsible for the song to WGPR to join him in the booth for one of his shows. The group obliged, and while they were in the studio with Mojo, they talked about not knowing what to call themselves. Mojo suggested A Number of Names. The moniker stuck.

After the final version of "Sharevari" was completed, the group had 12" singles pressed up (with "Skitso" as the B-side) and released it on their own label, dubbed Capriccio. Not ones to miss the opportunity for a good reference, the group assigned the catalog number 928 to the release, 928 being the model of Porsche driven by the protagonist in "Sharevari." Thanks to the support of the Electrifying Mojo and party DJs, the song became an instant classic and a source of inspiration that has lasted decades, not just for Detroit producers, but for many scattered across the globe as well.

The lasting value of A Number of Names' limited output resulted in the re-formation of the group for the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival. The revival was kicked into gear due to Lesley's introduction to Keith Tucker (AUX 88, Optic Nerve), a Detroiter who has carried the torch for the city's techno scene since the mid-'80s. Tucker obviously knew about Lesley's pioneering involvement with Detroit's scene and through getting to know each other, Lesley made the admiration mutual. Puzzlebox, the label helmed by Tucker, issued a double-vinyl release in early 2002 that consisted of the original "Sharevari" with several remixes from Detroit and Detroit-area artists like Sean Deason, Adult., Eddie Fowlkes, Ectomorph, DJ Godfather, Scan 7, and Tucker himself. Lesley and Jones made another live appearance at the 2002 DEMF. ~ Andy Kellman

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