In a new interview with the “Disturbing The Priest” podcast, legendary rock vocalist Graham Bonnet (RAINBOW, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, ALCATRAZZ, GRAHAM BONNET BAND) was asked if it’s true that he was once approached by Tony Iommi about possibly joining BLACK SABBATH. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Yeah, he called me one day and I thought, ‘I don’t know about that.’ I couldn’t imagine me somehow in a band called BLACK SABBATH with the way I look. (Laughs) I don’t look very BLACK SABBATH. I’d have to grow my hair really long and dye it dark black and grow a beard or something. I wasn’t sure. And I wasn’t sure about the music either, because I thought I wanted to do something that wasn’t like BLACK SABBATH. I was so sort of anti-heavy in a way, because the way I write a song, the way my other friends who are guitar players, the way they wrote songs, it wasn’t the typical so-called heavy metal, heavy rock, whatever you wanna call it, way.”
Bonnet previously reflected on his discussions with the SABBATH camp in a 2018 interview with The Metal Voice. At the time, he said: ” I can’t remember the actual year — 1980-something. And I had a call from one of the guys from BLACK SABBATH — I can’t remember whom — asking me if I’d be interested in joining because I’d just left RAINBOW. And it was something I wasn’t really sure of. I thought, ‘Well, maybe not.’ I wasn’t quite sure of the music. I wasn’t sure if I would really fit with my short hair and all the rest of it. Because I wanted to do something different on my own than to be in another band as another — here comes the other singer, another one after; you know, the revolving-door thing. I wanted to start something on my own, which is my own band, so I turned it down.”
Asked in a February 2023 interview with Classic Album Review why he turned down the SABBATH audition, Bonnet said: “I didn’t think I was right. I mean, do I look like a BLACK SABBATH guy? … BLACK SABBATH had the hair and the mustaches. I didn’t see that. And I didn’t really like their music — I didn’t. There was nothing that attracted me to that at all. Not that they’re not good at what they do. All these bands are so great, but I just didn’t like the music. My taste was elsewhere. And when Ronnie (James Dio) came along and joined them, it was fantastic for him. They did three albums, I think, which Ronnie was singing on it. And it turned that band around. He did great; he really did. And so I admire him for doing that.”
Bonnet was born in Skegness in 1947 and had his first hit single with THE MARBLES in 1968, “Only One Woman”, which reached No. 5 in the U.K. singles chart. A well-regarded solo album in 1977 saw him high in the Australian charts. This was the springboard for his rock career, with both THE SWEET and RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW keen to secure his services. Blackmore‘s offer was the more tempting, though following singer Ronnie James Dio in 1979 was a far from easy ride.
“‘Mistreated’ was my audition song, because I didn’t know any RAINBOW songs,” Bonnet later said.
RAINBOW suddenly found themselves with well-crafted AOR hits in the shape of “Since You Been Gone” and “All Night Long”. The band peaked at the first Donington Monsters Of Rock festival in 1980, but friction between Bonnet and Blackmore saw the singer leave the following year. A star-studded solo album followed, as well as a Top Ten single (“Night Games”),but Bonnet was quickly snapped up by the ex-UFO guitarist for the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP (MSG) until he had one of his momentary lapses of reason. “I realized I had screwed up big time,” he later said. “They were so mad at me, they almost got Gary (Barden) to redo the whole vocal tracks. So they took me down in the mix as punishment for my stupid behavior.”
Bonnet‘s most consistent rock project came in 1983 when he decided to put his own rock band together, and ALCATRAZZ became a huge draw on the rock circuit for the next four years, particularly in Japan. Now based in Los Angeles, the ever-adaptable Bonnet continues to record and tour on a regular basis, most recently with his GRAHAM BONNET BAND.