John Deacon

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For other people named John Deacon, see John Deacon (disambiguation).
John Deacon
Bass player queen.jpg
Deacon performing with Queen at the RDS Arena, Dublin in 1979.
Born John Richard Deacon
(1951-08-19) 19 August 1951 (age 63)
Oadby, Leicester, England
Alma mater Gartree High School
Beauchamp Grammar School
Occupation
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active 1965–1997 (retired)
Spouse(s) Veronica Tetzlaff (m. 1975)
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Bass
  • keyboard
  • guitar
  • drums
Associated acts

John Richard Deacon (born 19 August 1951) is a retired English musician, best known as the bassist for the rock band Queen. Of the four members of the band, he was the last to join and also the youngest, being only 19 years old when he was recruited by the other members of the band in February 1971. Deacon wrote a number of Queen's hit singles, including "You're My Best Friend", "Spread Your Wings", "Back Chat", "I Want to Break Free", and the band's biggest selling single in the United States, "Another One Bites the Dust", as well as a number of album tracks. He also played electric and acoustic guitars on several albums and, to a lesser extent, keyboards, synthesizers, programming and drums. He very occasionally provided backing vocals during live shows.

Following The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, Deacon performed just twice with the remaining members of Queen, in a charity concert in 1993[1] and a one-off rendition of "The Show Must Go On" in 1997 with Mercury's friend Elton John (who had sung the track with the band at Mercury's tribute) at the opening of the Bejart ballet in Paris. He played bass on the final Queen song, "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)" – released that year on the Queen Rocks compilation – after which he retired from the music industry. He did not participate in the Queen + Paul Rodgers collaboration, in Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, in Queen's performance during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, or Queen + Adam Lambert collaboration.

Early life[edit]

John Deacon grew up in Oadby, Leicestershire with father Arthur, mother Lilian and younger sister Julie. He had an older brother, Robert Bryan, who died in July 1953 at the age of 6. His father worked for the Norwich Union insurance company and died on 27 May 1963 at the age of 44. Deacon was known to friends and his bandmates as 'Deaks' or 'Deaky' and attended Linden Junior School in Leicester, Gartree High School and Beauchamp Grammar School in Oadby and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A.

Career[edit]

It was in Leicester that he formed his first band, The Opposition, in 1965 at the age of fourteen. He played rhythm guitar in the band, which he had bought with money borrowed from one of the other band members. He became the bassist after the original bassist was fired for not being of the same quality as the rest of the band. As well as a dedicated musician, Deacon also was the band's archivist, taking clippings from newspapers of even the advertisements featuring The Opposition. After being in the band for four years, Deacon played his final concert with the band (then called The Art) in August 1969. He left as he had been accepted to study at Chelsea College.

Although he left his bass and amplifier at home in Oadby, after less than a year in London, where he went on to achieve a First Class Honours Degree in electronics at Chelsea College, now part of King's College London, he decided he wanted to join a band. By this time Queen had already been formed by Brian May, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor, and Deacon even saw them in October 1970. In early 1971 he was introduced to Taylor and May by a friend at a disco who told him that they were in a band that had just lost its bassist. A couple of days later he auditioned in a lecture room at Imperial College London and became the last member of Queen to join the band. Since the band's last bassist drew attention away from Mercury, Deacon was selected for his musical talent, his quiet demeanour and his electrical skills. A persistent legend claims Deacon was the seventh bassist auditioned. According to various sources, prior bassists with the band included Mike Grose, Barry Mitchell and Doug Ewood.

On Queen's first album he was credited as "Deacon John".[2] Not long after its release, he requested that he be referred to by his proper name.

Deacon's first writing credit did not come until Queen's third album, Sheer Heart Attack. It was on the song "Stone Cold Crazy", but it was also credited to the other band members. The first song Deacon wrote on his own was "Misfire" from the same album, a Caribbean-themed song that garnered little attention. He would achieve much greater success with his second song, "You're My Best Friend", which was featured on the group's fourth album, A Night at the Opera, and went on to be an international hit.

By the mid-1980s, Deacon had started to play with other bands as well. He performed on the single "Picking Up Sound" by Man Friday & Jive Junior and played with The Immortals, which released the track "No Turning Back." Deacon also worked with Elton John and was part of the soundtrack to the film Biggles: Adventures in Time (1988).

Personal life[edit]

John Deacon has often been described as the "quiet" member of the band,[3] and the others said that he was in charge of most of the finances. His last public appearance with the band was at an AIDS charity event in 1997, and his last direct involvement with Queen was with the recording of "No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)". According to his friend Robert Ahwai, "John had lost his father when he was quite young. He suffered from depression after Freddie Mercury died and I am not sure he has ever come out of it."[3]

He lives in Putney in South West London with his wife Veronica Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff was already two months pregnant with their first child when they were married on 18 January 1975.[4] The two have six children: Robert (1975), Michael (1978), Laura (1979), Joshua (1983), Luke (1992), and Cameron (1993).

According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Deacon is worth £65 million or around $103 million as of 2011.[5]

As a trained electronics engineer, he often used to build equipment for the band. His most famous creation is the "Deacy Amp", used by Deacon and May.

As a performer[edit]

Deacon on stage at the New Haven Coliseum, Connecticut, US in 1978.

Deacon played guitar in addition to bass, taking over rhythm parts in many albums, as well as several acoustic performances. Some of the guitar work on Hot Space (the clean Fender Telecaster single-coil sound) is his work. He would occasionally play synthesizers on his own compositions and often composed at the piano, playing a Wurlitzer on his top ten hit "You're My Best Friend". He can also be seen playing the grand piano in the music video to "Spread Your Wings", although on the actual recording the piano was played by Mercury.

Highlights[edit]

Mostly, Deacon's compositions varied from pop rock to funk. He has been responsible for some of Queen's biggest hits such as "You're My Best Friend" (from A Night at the Opera), "Another One Bites the Dust" (from The Game) and "I Want to Break Free" (from The Works). He also co-wrote "Friends Will Be Friends" with Mercury and developed the chord arrangement for "The Miracle" with Mercury. Both went on the Greatest Hits II album. He also wrote two other popular songs, ("Spread Your Wings" and "Back Chat"), and created the riff for "Under Pressure".

As a bass guitarist, Deacon's notable works include "Another One Bites the Dust", "Father to Son", "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke", "Liar", "Dragon Attack", "Brighton Rock", "The March of the Black Queen", "You're My Best Friend", "The Millionaire Waltz", "We Are the Champions", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and "Under Pressure". As a guitarist, he did some rhythm playing in songs like "Staying Power" (both live and in the studio) and "Back Chat", as well as lead parts in "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Misfire" and Spanish acoustic fills in "Who Needs You". He also played double bass, notably on May's 1975 song "'39". May had asked him to play upright bass as a joke but a couple of days later he found Deacon in the studio with the instrument, and he had already learned to play it.[7]

Deacon's contributions in keyboards were mostly just background chords; his most notable work is in his composition "You're My Best Friend", which was the first song he wrote on the electric piano. Deacon also played triangle in live versions of "Killer Queen" (it hung off his microphone) and some piano (notably on "Another One Bites the Dust"). He can also be seen playing the drums on the video for "One Vision". This is perhaps a visual trick, although he did play drums on certain tracks on "Hot Space". He also helped producer David Richards compose on synthesizer a slap-bass style lead for the verses of "The Invisible Man" from The Miracle album, while the chorus retains Roger Taylor's melody from an earlier demo.

Style[edit]

Deacon used the bass as a lead and rhythm instrument. Some of his bass lines, such as "The Millionaire Waltz", "I'm Going Slightly Mad" or "You're My Best Friend", granted his technique an affinity with Motown's lead style basslines. Some of Queen's songs, such as "Dragon Attack", "Another One Bites the Dust", "Don't Try Suicide" or "A Kind of Magic", feature the bass as the main instrument. When performing with Queen, Deacon delivered a highly technical style, with numerous runs, walking bass lines and tight quick note changes. Deacon mainly used his fingers, though sometimes he did use a pick. He generally did not play with a floating thumb, and occasionally played with his thumb itself.

A trademark of Deacon's playing are his bass runs. In a 1975 review of Sheer Heart Attack, the reviewer wrote: "Only at the end would a new initiate to Queen recognise John Deacon's unmistakable trademark: the bass runs under the fade are a fast and facile as any to be heard. The least well known musician in Queen is one of his rock generation's most able."[8]

Singer[edit]

Deacon is the only member of Queen never to sing any lead vocals on any of their tracks. He has stated in interviews that he was incapable of competing with the three strong vocalists in the group.[citation needed] Deacon is not credited as a vocalist on any Queen album.

In live shows, Deacon did not receive his own microphone until the band's first headlining tour in support of their Sheer Heart Attack album. Despite this promising development, the main purpose of this was to play one note on the triangle in "Killer Queen". Before this, he had sung backing vocals during "Liar" into Mercury's microphone. There have been occasions where his microphone was turned up to a point where his voice can be heard, such as a 1977 Earls Court bootleg, where his voice was clearly heard on "Somebody to Love" and "In The Lap of the Gods Revisited". He can also be heard in a 1984 Milan bootleg singing part of a chorus of "Radio Ga Ga". He is also credited as backing vocalist on the closing credits of the band's first live video, "Queen at the Rainbow" (shot live in November 1974 and released on Box of Tricks).

Despite this, Deacon is almost always shown to be singing in Queen's music videos, such as "Bohemian Rhapsody", "You're My Best Friend", "Somebody To Love", "Tie Your Mother Down", and "Don't Stop Me Now", among others.

Gear[edit]

Deacon's first bass was an Eko, and he later acquired a Rickenbacker 4001, which was used for his audition for Queen, the very first concerts and the recording sessions at De Lane Lea in 1971. When the band began recording at Trident, he had problems with it and acquired a Fender Precision 1962 model with the silver 1964 transition logo and sunburst finish, which became his main instrument for the last concerts in 1972 and all 1973–1975 tours. As a backup he had another one of the same model, but with the black 1967 transition logo. Before the beginning of the 'Night at the Opera' sessions he stripped the paint from both, left them with a natural finish and switched them; from then on the black logo one would be his main guitar for most tours and recordings.

In early 1977, Deacon got two new basses: a Fender Precision Fretless, which he used for "'39" (emulating the double bass he used in the original recording) and "My Melancholy Blues" on stage, and a Music Man StingRay which he used as main for the "Day at the Races" tour and some videos. From the 'News of the World' tour up until 'The Works' tour in 1985, the Music Man would remain for just specific numbers ("Sheer Heart Attack", "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Back Chat"), and used sometimes in the studio as well. The fretless type kept being used for "'39" and "My Melancholy Blues" live until the end of the decade.

During late 1978, at the beginning of the "Jazz" tour in the US, Deacon tried another Fender P-Bass, a sunburst 1955 model with the original single-coil pickup,[9][better source needed] but eventually gave it up and returned to the black logo '67 model. The old Fender kept being used occasionally as a backup, in the recordings of "Coming Soon" (1979) and in the video of "Back Chat" (1982).

In 1980, Kramer made him a custom bass, which he used as a backup for some tours and in videos (e.g. "Play the Game", "Las Palabras De Amor"). Next year, Fender gave him a special prototype model which he used for recording "Under Pressure" for "Hot Space" and performing it during the 1981–1985 period.

A new Fender P-Bass came to his hands: a red Elite 1, which he used for mimed performances, some videos and recordings (e.g. "One Vision"), part of the Leiden 1986 gig, the entire Marbella and Knebworth 1986 gigs and "Radio Ga Ga" at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. In 1986, Deacon got a Warwick Buzzard, used for some videos and mimed performances, but not on recordings. Before the Magic Tour, he refurbished and spray-painted his Precision bass black and continued using it as his main instrument for several gigs (e.g. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)").

For other instruments, Deacon mostly used Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars; his main was a custom Tele which he used on stage. In the recordings of "Misfire" he demonstrated he too could play guitar harmonies. For acoustic he mostly used Martin D-18 and Ovation. The piano he played in "Another One Bites the Dust" was a Bösendorfer, and in "You're My Best Friend", a Wurlitzer Electric Piano (though May has stated that it was written on a Fender Rhodes). For synths, he used Oberheim OB-X, Roland Jupiter 8 and Yamaha DX7.

Retirement[edit]

After playing live with Queen three times more – at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness on 20 April 1992, in a charity concert with Roger Taylor in Midhurst on 18 October 1993, and at the opening of the Bejart Ballet in Paris on 17 January 1997, performing only "The Show Must Go On" with Elton John on lead vocals – he made the decision to retire from music, re-appearing only briefly by joining his ex-band mates in October 1997 for the recording of the final Queen song "No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)", included in the Queen Rocks album released a month later.

Deacon has reportedly spoken out about the May/Taylor/Robbie Williams cover of "We Are the Champions", recorded for A Knight's Tale. In an interview with The Sun about the collaboration he said, "It is one of the greatest songs ever written but I think they've ruined it ... I don't want to be nasty but let's just say Robbie Williams is no Freddie Mercury. Freddie can never be replaced – and certainly not by him."[10]

He chose not to be present at Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, or join in the collaboration with Paul Rodgers. On the Queen + Paul Rodgers collaboration album The Cosmos Rocks which featured new material from the trio, he was listed in the Thanks Notes on the CD. May insists that Deacon is still involved on the business side of Queen but chooses to hide from public sight. May also confirmed that Deacon approves of the proposed Freddie Mercury biopic.[11]

In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone regarding the upcoming Queen + Adam Lambert North American tour with Adam Lambert, May and Taylor admitted that they no longer have much contact with Deacon except regarding finances, with Taylor stating that "[Deacon]'s completely retired from any kind of social contact", and describing him as "fragile."[12]

Discography[edit]

Main article: Queen discography

Queen songs John Deacon wrote that were released as singles:

Selected Queen album tracks:

Selected solo efforts:

  • Jive Junior And Man Friday: "Picking Up Sounds" (7" single, 1983)
  • The Immortals: "No Turning Back" (single from Biggles: Adventures in Time soundtrack) (1986)

Collaborations[edit]

  • 1975: All four members of Queen helped produce a session with the soul band Trax. Nothing was ever released.
  • 1983: "Picking Up Sounds" by Man Friday and Jive Junior – co-wrote, produced and played bass guitar on this single.
  • 1984: "It's An Illusion" by Roger Taylor – bass guitar on this track from the album Strange Frontier.
  • 1984: "I Cry For You" by Roger Taylor – bass guitar on the remixed version of this song, on the single Strange Frontier.
  • 1985: "Too Young" by Elton John – bass guitar on this song from the LP Ice On Fire.
  • 1985: Strawberry Switchblade – produced self-titled first album.
  • 1986: "Angeline" by Elton John – bass guitar on this song from the LP Leather Jackets.
  • 1986: "This Is Your Time" by Errol Brown – co-wrote and bass guitar on this track, which was never released.
  • 1987: "I Dream Of Christmas" by Anita Dobson – bass guitar on this track from the album Talkin' Of Love.
  • 1988: "Roulette" by Minako Honda – co-wrote this song (in fact "No Turning Back" remake with other lyrics) from the album Cancel. John did not participate in the Minako Honda recording, although his bandmate May wrote and produced two songs for this album.
  • 1988: "How Can I Go On" by Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe – bass guitar on this single from the album Barcelona.
  • 1988: Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime) by `Morris Minor and the Majors John makes an appearance, wearing a blue wig and playing guitar.
  • 1989: "Who Wants to Live Forever" by Ian & Belinda – bass on this charity record, produced by Brian May, also featuring May and Roger Taylor.
  • 1992: "Nothin' But Blue" by Brian May – plays bass on this track from Back To The Light.
  • 1992: "Somewhere In Time" by Cozy Powell – plays bass on this instrumental version of "Nothin' But Blue" from Cozy Powell's album The Drums Are Back.
  • 1994: "Bushfire" by Steve Gregory – plays bass on this track from the eponymous album.
  • 1997: "That's The Way God Planned It" by SAS Band – plays bass on this track from their début (and only studio) album. Roger Taylor sings a verse as well on this cover track, originally recorded by Billy Preston.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Deacy-The John Deacon documentary
  2. ^ a b Queen, 1973, sleeve notes
  3. ^ a b ""Now bass ace John shuns the limelight"". The Sun. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Queen Biography 1975." queenzone.com.
  5. ^ ""The top 50 richest people in music: Sunday Times Rich List"". This is Money. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Rolling Stone – Issue 149 – 12-06-1973
  7. ^ Brian May. "Queen Legends". 
  8. ^ "03-XX-1975 – Sheer Heart Attack – Circus". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Bass'es Bassinet-Bass". Deaky.net. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  10. ^ ""Freddie" in Classic Rock Dec 2001". Brianmay.com. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Brian May disappointed by John Deacon's movie snub - Sound Bites - Display - Sound Bites". The Sound. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  12. ^ Andy Greene (2014-03-06). "QA: Queen, Adam Lambert Talk New Tour, Pressure and John Deacon | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 

Sources[edit]

  • Mark Hodkinson (2004). The Early Years: Queen. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-012-2
  • Mark Blake (Editor) (2005). MOJO Classic Queen Special Edition. EMAP Metro Limited.

External links[edit]