LOS ANGELES — Alcatrazz. A fine name for a heavy band. Visions of toughness, Clint Eastwood, bars, Clint Eastwood, implacability, Clint Eastwood. Better than Graham Crackers anyway, one of a hundred names suggested by Graham Bonnet’s Japanese fan club (it’s massive; they call him “Glaham,” and they’ve already make the Alcatrazz debut album gold in the East); Graham Bonnet being “one of the best singers in the world,” according to Michael Schenker, and the man who put this L.A. based bunch together.
Bonnet’s the only Brit in the line-up, which features one Swede — 20 year old Yngwie Malmsteen, the young guitar hero who’s inspired YNGWIE IS GOD graffiti all over town — and three Americans — Jan Uvena, former Alice Cooper drummer, chosen from an illustrious field of contenders including Aynsley Dunbar, Cozy Powell, and ex-Iron Maiden basher Give Burr; and the former keyboardist and bassist with AOR hit band New England, Jimmy Waldo and Gary Shea, who arrived as a package in search of something “heavier.” Graham turned down offers from Ted Nugent and UFO to form this band. They recorded their debut album almost exactly a year to the date since the singer was unceremoniously booted from Michael Schenker’s band after reportedly opening his pants and flashing at a British audience, and dragging on a shadow guitarist hidden in the wings.
“It was a very drunken night,” Bonnet, a good-looking, amiable bloke, father of twins and damn good singer, tells the tale. “I heard a lot of stories after that about me flashing my cock and taking my bum out and all kinds of strange things. It’s like when you tell a story in that party game and pass it along down the line it changes,” Graham insists, “and by the time it gets to the end it’s a different story. People told me what they were saying — that I pissed on the audience, that I said Michael didn’t play guitar on the album and that it was a guitar roadie who was playing. Stupid things! And they made me sound like some kind of real weirdo.
“The reason I ran offstage that night is because my cock came out. See these jeans?” I didn’t look. I’m a married woman. OK, I gave a journalistic sidelong glance. They’re buttoned. “I wear these jeans with buttons now because of what happened with those other jeans. The zip came off here. I always find a problem with zippers, they always bust on me, I don’t know why, and I don’t wear underpants. So I thought ‘right, from now on I’m going to be real safe.’ I was going to do like this, trying to put it back in, and suddenly it became ‘he was shaking it.'”
Sent packing by MSG, he sat around for three months brooding, wondering if he’d ever work in rock ‘n’ roll again. “I really did. Because I thought people would believe what they read in the papers — that I was some kind of alcoholic boozer that was over the top and taking drugs and a phantom flasher or whatever, though I’ve never fucked up like that onstage, ever.” And then he thought about doing a solo album. He hitched up with a new manager, who helped him track down the musicians — the New England twosome from a newspaper ad, Yngwie on the recommendation of L.A. heavy metal fans who’d heard him in the band Steeler, and Uvena after auditioning 50 drummers and kicking out Clive Burr after a week.
“The kind of music it is is very much in the Rainbow-Schenker vein,” says Graham; well, at least he’s consistent! “It’s probably more tuneful than both those bands, and probably more dynamic. The band is playing very much in that heavy metal — I hate the words ‘heavy metal’! — it’s got that HM back sound, and at the front it’s more melodic from me, the vocals. It’s not that horrible heavy metal. Some HM sounds like punk music, know what I mean? Really shitty and awful.
“This is kind of the thinking man’s heavy metal.”
The Alcatrazz album is nudging into the top 100 as I write. “This band is something very special,” Graham assures me as I make my escape. “We’re all musicians, basically, and I think if you’re a good musician you can play anything. I thought at first, no way this could work, but after a few weeks of rehearsing, the whole thing changed, and suddenly it just sounded right. This is a very strong band. Hopefully people will like it.”
© Sylvie Simmons, Creem, June 1984