Deacon performing with Queen at the RDS Arena, Dublin in 1979.
|Birth name||John Richard Deacon|
19 August 1951 |
Oadby, Leicester, England
|Instruments||Bass guitar, double bass|
|Years active||1965–1997 (retired)|
|Fender Precision Bass|
John Richard Deacon (born 19 August 1951) is a retired English musician, best known as the bass guitarist 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", "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. Behind the scenes, he was also involved in the group's financial management and electrical equipment design.
Following The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, Deacon performed only twice with the remaining members of Queen, in a charity concert in 1993 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 guitar 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, Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, their performance during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, or the Queen + Adam Lambert collaboration.
John Richard Deacon was born in Leicester on 19 August 1951, to Arthur Henry and Lilian Molly Deacon. A younger sister, Julie, was born five years later. His father had a stable job at the Norwich Union insurance company, and in 1960 the family moved to the dormitory town of Oadby. His father 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. He became interested in electronics, reading magazines on the subject and building small devices. He studied well, and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A.
Deacon joined his first band, The Opposition, in 1965 at the age of 14. He played a rhythm guitar which he had bought with money borrowed from Richard Young, the founding member. 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 in London (now part of King's College London), where he eventually obtained a 1st class honours degree in Electronics in 1971. Having become a fan of Deep Purple, he saw the group perform the Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall that September.
Although he left his bass and amplifier at home in Oadby, after less than a year of studying in London, he decided he wanted to join a band. By this time Queen had already been formed by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, 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. Deacon played his first show with Queen at the College of Estate Management in Hornsey in June.
On Queen's first album he was credited as "Deacon John", in order to make him "sound more interesting", according to Mercury and Taylor. Not long after its release, he requested that he be referred to by his proper name and so on Queen II, he was credited under his real name.
Deacon's first writing credit came on 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 (it was written for his wife-to-be Veronica).
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" as part of the soundtrack to the film Biggles: Adventures in Time (1988). Deacon also worked with Elton John.
Deacon has often been described as the "quiet" member of the band. Although the rest of the band felt he was the right bassist for them, he barely spoke in rehearsals and avoided arguments. The other members have said that he handled most of the band's 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)".
As a trained electronics engineer, Deacon would often build equipment for the band. His most famous creation is the "Deacy Amp", used by himself and May.
As a performer
Rolling Stone Magazine wrote in 1973 that the combination of drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon "is explosive, a colossal sonic volcano whose eruption makes the earth tremble." 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.
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 flamenco-style acoustic fills in "Who Needs You".
Deacon was mostly a finger-style bassist (pizzicato), however he did occasionally use a plectrum (pick) for some fast songs, or songs that required more attack, such as when performing 'Stone Cold Crazy' and 'Under Pressure' live onstage. He generally did not play with a floating thumb, and occasionally played with his thumb itself, usually with his palm muting the bridge.
Deacon also occasionally used the bass guitar as a lead and rhythm instrument in songs such as 'The Millionaire Waltz', 'I'm Going Slightly Mad' and 'You're My Best Friend'. Granted his technique and affinity with Motown's lead style basslines. While the vast majority of Queen's songs feature the guitar as the main instrument, some of Queen's songs featured the bass guitar as the main driving instrument; for example 'Dragon Attack', 'Another One Bites the Dust', 'Don't Try Suicide' and 'A Kind of Magic'. Deacon delivered a highly technical style, with numerous runs, walking bass lines and tight quick note changes spanning the entire length of the bass guitar's fretboard.
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 as fast and facile as any to be heard. The least well known musician in Queen is one of his rock generation's most able."
After playing live with Queen three more times – 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."
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.
In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine 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." May added however, "He still keeps an eye on the finances, though. John Deacon is still John Deacon. We don't undertake anything financial without talking to him."
A new species of the genus Heteragrion (Odonata : Zygoptera) from Brazil was named Heteragrion johndeaconi in honor of him, with the etymology: "I name this species after John Richard Deacon, bassist and songwriter, whose wonderful sound and magnificent lyrics have enchanted the world for over four decades." 
Queen songs John Deacon wrote that were released as singles:
- "You're My Best Friend" from A Night at the Opera
- "Spread Your Wings" from News of the World
- "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Need Your Loving Tonight" from The Game
- "Back Chat" from Hot Space
- "I Want to Break Free" from The Works
- "Friends Will Be Friends", "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" (both cowritten with Freddie Mercury) and "One Year of Love" from A Kind of Magic
Selected Queen album tracks:
- "Misfire" from Sheer Heart Attack
- "You and I" from A Day at the Races
- "Who Needs You" from News of the World
- "If You Can't Beat Them" and "In Only Seven Days" from Jazz
- "Execution Of Flash" and "Arboria" from Flash Gordon
- "Cool Cat" from Hot Space (co-written with Freddie Mercury)
- "Rain Must Fall" from The Miracle.
- "My Life Has Been Saved" from Made in Heaven.
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)
- 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.
- Deacy-The John Deacon documentary
- Dean 1986, p. 11.
- Hodkinson 2004, p. 12.
- Hodkinson 2004, p. 13.
- Hodkinson 2004, p. 27.
- Hodkinson 2004, pp. 25-26.
- Hodkinson 2004, p. 26.
- Dean 1986, pp. 9,11.
- Queen, 1973, sleeve notes
- Hodkinson 2004, p. 234.
- "The top 50 richest people in music: Sunday Times Rich List". This is Money. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- Rolling Stone – Issue 149 – 12-06-1973
- "03-XX-1975 – Sheer Heart Attack – Circus". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- "Guitar Magazine - September 1999". brianmay.com. Retrieved 15 November 2015.
- ""Freddie" in Classic Rock Dec 2001". Brianmay.com. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- "Brian May disappointed by John Deacon's movie snub - Sound Bites - Display - Sound Bites". The Sound. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
- Andy Greene (2014-03-06). "QA: Queen, Adam Lambert Talk New Tour, Pressure and John Deacon | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
- Lencioni, F.A.A. (9 July 2013). "Diagnoses and discussion of the group 1 and 2 Brazilian species of Heteragrion, with descriptions of four new species (Odonata: Megapodagrionidae). Zootaxa 3685 (1): 001–080." (PDF). Zootaxa. Magnolia Press - Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- Mark Blake (Editor) (2005). MOJO Classic Queen Special Edition. EMAP Metro Limited.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Deacon.|
- Queen official site – info on John Deacon – and all about his history in Queen