Last week a writer posed this question to online magazine Slate: “Is Madonna too old to make Madonna music?” Sonny Vincent would have a laugh. He’s just turned 59 and has no trouble still being a punk. And, unlike Madonna — who at 54 is well-cared for, both on the road and off — Vincent still wheels about the country in a van, plays small venues, and bunks wherever.
It’s a hard life, for which Vincent may have been better suited in 1976 when he was a teen and started the band that would make his name. The Testors (named after a type of model-airplane cement; Vincent was an admitted glue-head) was a trio that had two guitars and a drum kit with the cymbals removed. They were crappy at first, but so was all of punk back then. It was attitude that mattered, and the Testors were violent. Their performances at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB often got Vincent locked up. At one point he was committed to a mental hospital in Upstate New York. When he got out, he started another band.
After the Testors divorced for good in 1981, Vincent moved to Minneapolis where he launched Sonny Vincent & the Extreme. After their demise, he went on to form a number of bands and continued to release CDs, too many of which to list here. Recognition for his three-chord music and his dark explosions of vigor would not come until later, when San Diego’s Swami Records released a Testors retrospective in 2003.
The point is this: Like Madonna, Vincent has never given up, nor has he stopped being who he is. And while Madonna has loomed larger, all that ever mattered to Vincent, as a troubled-youth-turned-musician, was to keep it real.
The Widows and My Revenge also perform.
SONNY VINCENT: Soda Bar, Friday April 27, 9 p.m. 619-255-7224. $8.