Twenty years after their proto-techno single, "Sharevari" was released; Paul Lesley and Sterling Jones have re-emerged as A Number of Names. A re-recorded, more DJ-friendly version will appear this fall on Puzzlebox, as will a handful of remixes. It's a good time to re-trace their steps.
Childhood friends Paul Lesley and Sterling Jones are the central part of A Number of Names. They formed the band officially in 1981, but their ideas were forming long before that in the halls of Detroit-area Cody, Henry Ford and Oak Park High Schools. Says Lesley, "I had a couple of years to go and Sterling had a year to go. So we were at it kind of early."
Many Detroit high-schoolers of that era formed "party clubs," and would produce and promote their own club nights at venues all over town. Lesley and Jones belonged to "Capriccio," and used that name for their short-lived label. But the pair opted for the name of a larger club for their first recording. "We thought ["Charivari"] was a nice clever name to utilize," says Lesley.
(L-R: Sterling Jones, Paul Lesley)
Recorded through the summer of 1981, "Sharevari," complete with its mysterious spelling change, leaked out to the party club scene and quickly became a hit. A demo version was played at a Charivari party, and eventually on The Electrifying Mojo's radio show. There's been some debate as to whether A Number of Names predates Cybotron as the first Detroit-born "techno" record, but Lesley sorts out the finer details:
"I believe that ['Alleys of Your Mind'] beat us to release date, though I believe we had made ['Sharevari'] long before. We just didn't have the money to release it. It had hit the airwaves before the release of 'Alleys' and [Kraftwerk's Computer World]. Mojo played a version of it, but it hit the street after those records. I was a little miffed because I thought we were first."
They decided to put their record out independently first, as Lesley explains: "We started on sheer gumption. We searched for record deals and got sort of a 'half deal' with Quality. We had a little bit bigger distribution and we were able to combine 'Sharevari' with a new release. That was about the extent of our work with Quality, which lasted about a year and a half or so. We just went back to school and put the music business aside."
A Number of Names' DEMF appearance was all due to a recent introduction to Keith Tucker, AKA Optic Nerve. An introduction destined to be, to hear Lesley explain it: "Simply put, one of his associates happens to be engaged to my sister. He became aware that I had done some work in the music industry, and when he found out what music it was …" Lesley also became equally interested in Tucker's dedication and techniques. It is from this mutual admiration that he and Jones have closed a loop on two decades of dance music. Says Lesley, "I'm glad to see that 'Sharevari' can still fit into this format."