If you were a young music fan in 1976, the pickings were slim. The singles charts were dominated by the likes of Hall &Oates, Seals & Crofts, the Starland Vocal Band and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. If you were looking for something a little more adventureous than shaking your booty or listening to silly love songs, your were out of luck. And the album charts weren’t much help, either. It was the reign of Boston, Foreigner, Styx and Kiss and there wasn’t room for much else. But 1976 was indeed a watershed year in music; it’s just that no one knew it yet. That year, three little known artists released albums that would change music forever. 1976 was the year The Ramones released “The Ramones,” Blondie released “Blondie,” and Eddie & The Hotrods released “Teenage Depression.” The following year saw the release of The Ramones’ second album “Leave Home,” as well as new releases from bands like The Damned, The Clash, Television, The Vibrators, The Jam, The Dictators, Sham 69, and, of course, The Sex Pistols. Clearly, something was up.
Like many suburban teenagers, Rochester natives Jeff Laben and Geoff Proud wanted to form a rock band. Proud played guitar in a high-school country rock band with his friend, drummer Tom Backus, and Laben knew a few power chords and had plenty of attitude. After wearing the grooves off the first two Ramones albums and "Never Mind The Bullocks," the two figured they knew all they needed to start a band. By 1978, Laben had become an avid collector of so-called Punk Rock and would make almost daily trips to the House of Guitars and Midtown Record Theater (where he eventually worked) to buy up the latest singles from bands like Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Buzzcocks, and Generation X. His collection, and the new sound it represented, would form the inspiration for The Clichés.
The first official practice of The Clichés probably occurred sometime in May of 1980 and likely took place in the Prouds’ basement on Evergreen Drive. The band consisted of Jeff Laben on vocals, Geoff Proud on rhythm guitar, Tom Backus on drums, Johnny Perevich on lead guitar and a bass player whose name no one can remember. The no-name bass player didn’t work out and so Proud, being the lesser talented of the two guitarists, picked up the bass. The band had three simple goals: to be fast, loud and fun. The first few run-throughs of the band’s first song, Land Surfin’, met all three goals with ease. The Clichés were on their way.
The Clichés were not the first local band to introduce the punk/new wave sound to Rochester. That trail had been blazed by a band called New Math. From his post as a clerk at Record Theater, Laben befriended the band’s leader, Kevin Patrick, and on Friday, September 19, 1980, The Clichés opened for New Math at Scorgies. The show was announced that Wednesday in the Democrat and Chronicle by the paper's music columnist, David Stearns, who would eventually become the band's nemesis. After that first show, the Clichés quickly developed a following and were soon headlining the same clubs at which they had once shared the bill with New Math. Even the local media began taking note. By 1981/82, the punk scene in Rochester was flourishing. Bands like The Presstones, The Chesterfield Kings, Personal Effects, Cappy and the Frenchmen, and others were regularly filling clubs. And the club that was at the center of it all, of course, was Scorgies. The Clichés played Scorgies literally hundreds of times, sometimes two or three nights in a row and the crowds were always loud and enthusiastic. Original songs like Television Addict, Land Surfin’, and She Intimidates Me, and covers like Tell Me and Bang A Gong were crowd favorites. In 1982 the band was asked to contribute a track to WCMF’s Homegrown Album and Riverview Restaurant, a song about a night at Rochester’s infamous lesbian bar was the most requested song on the album. Soon, The Clichés were opening for national acts like The Go Go’s, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Cramps, Johnny Thunders and even their boyhood heroes, The Ramones.
The band continued to fill Scorgies, where they became the unofficial house band, and also played other clubs like the Penny Arcade, Schatzees, and The Riverboat. They played outdoor festivals, opened for the Ramones again when they played the Triangle Theater and played shows at a number of area colleges, including St. John Fisher where Laben, Proud, and Perevich were students. The band, along with their crew, Sara Todd and Sioux Manning, traveled to Buffalo and Albany for gigs, bringing their hard core fans with them and picking up some new ones along the way. It seemed like the good times would go on forever.
They didn’t, of course. Eventually the band drifted apart, the members going their separate ways and pursuing different interests. Laben embarked on a career in sports management, Proud went into the television business, Backus pursued a careen in sound recording, and Johnny Perevich went into the medical profession. The last time the band played together was at Proud’s 30th birthday party ten years ago. But rumors persist…
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Hilton Head, SC
Sales Director – The Heritage Golf Classic
Married to Linda
Jeff also owns a minor league baseball team and is an avid golfer. He and his wife adopt greyhounds who were formerly mistreated as racers. He has a treasure trove of Clichés memorabilia, some of which appears on this web site.
Independent television writer and producer
Married to Melody
Children: Katie b.1992; Emily b.1994
Geoff was the head writer and executive producer of A&E’s City Confidential and has written and produced hundreds of hours of television programming for national cable networks. www.geoffreyproud.com He also plays solo acoustic gigs at various Tenessee bars and restaurants.
Operations Manager – Jupiter Entertainment
Tom is one of the most sought-after sound designers in the business. In addition to his work at Jupiter Entertainment, he records and produces records, has worked in well-known LA recording studios as an engineer, and does sound for network broadcasts of college football. He, along with Geoff Proud, were also members of the Black Orchids.
Married to Sherry
Children: Emily b. 1999
Telecommunications Analyst - Kodak
Johnny plays guitar with The Royals, a long-running Rochester rock band.