Sonny Vincent – ‘Snake Pit Therapy’

Sonny Vincent has lived a life or three. With a new book and a seriously kick-ass new album, both titled ‘Snake Pit Therapy‘, no one can deny that he is a rock and roll legend.

The man has stories to tell that’s for sure and even though ‘Snake Pit Therapy‘ the book, comes in at a slim 91 pages, Vincent manages to take the reader on quite a ride. The book collects his writings and memories of growing up in the 50s and 60s in New York along with poetry, musings about the environment, and of course, some serious rock and roll history. There are chapters covering the early New York punk scene, his friendship with Bob Stinson of The Replacements, and stories from his 9 years touring and recording with Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison from the Velvet Underground.

Vincent grew up in Westchester County just north of New York City, left home and school for the streets in his early teens, picked up the guitar, and played in proto-metal/punk bands like Distance, Fury, and Liquid Diamonds in the mid to late 60s and early 70s. He saw action in Vietnam as a Marine and spent time in and out of trouble, but when his band, Testors formed in 1975, he became a vital player in the first wave of New York punk rock in the 70s. Since then he has played with and hung out with almost everyone who is anyone in the punk and rock and roll scene throughout the 70s, 80s, and beyond. These days, he’s a proud grandfather and in addition to ‘Snake Pit Therapy‘ both the album and the book, he has also overseen the release of some of his archival works including rare and live recordings.

But it’s been a hell of a journey both artistically and personally.

Throughout the book Vincent regales the reader with coming-of-age tales as an outsider at an Ivy League prep school, skipping class to write poetry, and hustling at a couple of early jobs before dropping out and hitting the streets at around age 13. As a young runaway, Vincent was in and out of reform schools but eventually when he was 17 the authorities simply signed him up with the military. But even the Marines couldn’t tame his wild spirit. “I had difficulties adjusting to society. I didn’t like having to conform to a corrupt authority, so for me, it was trouble from the start. Punk was a natural progression, I suppose,” he writes in the chapter ‘Reform School Amuni‘.

Before and after Vietnam, he had started putting bands together like Distance (1969-71), Fury (1972), and Liquid Diamonds (1973-75). The early stuff is blistering hard rock, just a little removed from what the Testors would lay down a few years later. Testors would become knee-deep in the CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City scene, playing with the likes of The Cramps, Dead Boys, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Iggy Pop, and Suicide for the next half-decade. In 1980 they released a single  ‘Time is Mine/Together’ on Bleeker Bob’s Drive-In label but by then the band, by all accounts lived a volatile existence and was spinning out of control.

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There were a couple of episodes like an on-stage fight during a radio interview between Sonny and Lenny Kaye, and Sonny being confined to a hospital in upstate New York where he was held for three months. Once he was released, the next chapter of his life began when left New York for Minneapolis, ventured into filmmaking and art, and ended up living next door to Bob Mould. Vincent formed another band in Minneapolis called Sonny Vincent and The Extreme and played around town, including a few shows with a young band called The Replacements. He struck up a friendship with the guitarist Bob Stinson eventually forming bands like the Model Prisoners and Shotgun Rationale with Stinson and names like Cheetah Chrome, Greg Norton, Scott Asheton, and Captain Sensible. Despite being in a different city, the craziness continued, especially when around Bob Stinson which Vincent adeptly documents in ‘My Adam’s Apple Is In The Wrong Place: Memories of Bob Stinson‘.

Over the years, Vincent has kept himself remarkably busy with his solo career and other projects. He has lived in Los Angeles, Holland, France, and recorded with Rocket From the Crypt, Rat Scabies, and Glen Matlock to name drop a few. Last year he teamed up with Bobby Liebling from Pentagram, Stooges bassist Jimmy Recca, guitarist Hugo Conim and drummer João Pedro Ventura from Dawnrider to release an album as The Limit. Meanwhile, he was also busy working on the ‘Snake Pit Therapy‘ album. The album is a selection of powerful and muscular ‘it-sounds-just-like-New-York (or Detroit)’ punk. Vincent is in top form with his customary wall of guitars and his deep bellowing voice. It is a killer record from start to finish.

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The book came about after Wille Crane (ex-Midnight Thunder Express and The Backstabbers) started Far West Press. Vincent had helped Midnight Thunder Express book a tour in Europe back in the early 2000s and Crane, who had read some of Vincent’s work contacted him years later to see if a book was possible. Rock and roll memoirs can be a mixed bag and in and of itself, ‘Snake Pit Therapy‘ isn’t exactly a full-on memoir. It sometimes reads like an unedited private journal rather than an autobiography but, Vincent’s writing style is like his music, he is a straight shooter and doesn’t romanticize, he just lets it rip.

Here’s hoping for a full version of Vincent’s fascinating life.

Order the book from FAR WEST PRESS

Order the album from SVART RECORDS

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One foot in the door
The other one in the gutter

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