In a newly posted interview with music writer Joel Gausten, legendary singer Graham Bonnet (RAINBOW, MSG, ALCATRAZZ, GRAHAM BONNET BAND) discusses a number of topics, including his uncomfortable arrival in RAINBOW in 1979 following the departure of original vocalist Ronnie James Dio. An excerpt from the chat appears below.
In addition to your voice, you’re known for having one of the more unique images in the scene. How were you able to maintain your identity and image back in a time when the industry was perhaps calling for a much different look for a frontman in your genre?
Graham: “I really didn’t think I belonged when I joined RAINBOW, for instance. I went to sing the audition with a suit and tie on; I looked like a bank manager or whatever. There were a few jokes and snickers around the room when I approached ready to sing my audition piece. But after I had done the song, they all smiled and laughed and made me sing two or three more times over to make sure I wasn’t kidding when I sang it. I got the job not because of my suit or whatever, but because of my voice, I hope. The music comes before the way you look. But I’ve always been into 1950s music and the 1950s look, and I wasn’t going to change just because I was asked to join a so-called ‘hair’ band, a heavy rock band or ‘heavy metal’ band, if you will. It wasn’t my thing; I never knew who RAINBOW was, so it was totally different for me. Eventually, I fit in; they got used to me looking the way I looked. As long as I sang okay, everything was good. With the album I sang on, I sang my heart out because it was something I had never done before; it was all new music to me. I learned along the way from [then-RAINBOW bassist] Roger Glover and from [RAINBOW founder] Ritchie Blackmore how these songs were written, because I was used to more sort of R&B-type songs… I thank Ritchie and I thank Roger for guiding me through it, but it felt absolutely wrong for me to be there. [After the audition], I went home to my manager in London and said, ‘I don’t think I belong in this band.’ He said, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I heard you sang your balls off on the audition piece.’ I said, ‘But I look wrong. The music they’re playing is sort of classically influenced; it’s not like the stuff I do.’ He said, ‘You’ve gotta do it.’ I went back again to finish off the album…It worked out well, but it was a long procedure because it was something totally new to me. I felt very, very green and pretty much like a baby being introduced to this genre of music.”
The complete interview is available at www.joelgausten.com.
With Bonnet at the mic, RAINOW recorded the “Down To Earth” LP, which became one of the band’s most successful releases.
Graham moved on from RAINBOW in the early ’80s to work on his solo career. He also played with MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, recorded several albums with ALCATRAZZ and had a short stint with IMPELLITTERI.
GRAHAM BONNET BAND‘s debut album, “The Book”, was released last November via Frontiers Music Srl.