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)|
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.
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 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.
It was in Leicester that Deacon played in 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.
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 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.
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.
Having contributed no compositions to their first two albums, 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, and 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)". 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."
He lives in Putney in Southwest London with his wife Veronica Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff was already two months pregnant with their first child when they were married on 18 January 1975. The two have six children: Robert (1975), Michael (1978), Laura (1979), Joshua (1983), Luke (1992), and Cameron (1993).
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".
The Early Years - In photographs of John Deacon in Queen's formative years, Deacon can be seen playing or posing with a Rickenbacker 4001 in 'JetGlo' finish and in other photographs with a Fender Jazz with a natural finish.
Fender Precision - The Rickenbacker and Fender Jazz basses were however were replaced in favour of Fender Precision bass guitars, and this brand and model became Deacon's mainstay instrument throughout the entirety of his career with Queen.
Double Bass - For the recording of the 'A Night At The Opera' album in 1974, Deacon borrowed a double bass to record Brian May's space-folk song, ''39'. May had asked Deacon to play an upright bass as a joke but a couple of days later he found Deacon in the studio with the instrument, having already learned how to play it. (many years later in 1986, Queen would make the music video for 'Who Wants To Live Forever' featuring John Deacon playing a bright white double bass with a bow (arco) however this was only for show as the song doesn't actually feature any bass, electric or otherwise, but Deacon would use an electric bass when performing the song onstage, playing a 'live' arrangement bass line.)
Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay - In 1976 he acquired an Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay with sunburst orange finish and white scratchplate which can be seen in many live performances and music videos of this era (i.e. 'Tie Your Mother Down') however this bass later became a back-up instrument and though not used, it can be seen off-stage at both the Wembley '86 concert as well as The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.
Fretless Bass Guitars - Shortly before the recording of the 'Jazz' album, Deacon acquired a few fretless Fender Precision bass guitars which he went on to use for many of Queen's studio recordings; for example 'Bicycle Race', 'Fat Bottomed Girls', 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'Play The Game', 'The Show Must Go On', 'I Want It All', 'Under Pressure' and many more. Deacon would however only use fretless bass for two songs when performing live; 'Dreamer's Ball' and ''39') and preferred to just use fretted bass for those songs that were originally recorded on fretless bass guitar.
The 80's and 90's - Deacon dabbled with a few other bass guitars in the early-to-mid 80's, such as playing a Kramer DMZ 4001 by Kramer Guitars (which can be seen in the 'Play The Game' and 'Las Palabras de Amor' music videos as well as on the cover of the 'Another One Bites The Dust' single). He also used a Warwick Buzzard - quite an odd choice for the seemingly conservative John Deacon! - for the 'Friends Will Be Friends' music video), a WAL Custom Bass used live for The Princes Trust Concert and finally a custom bass guitar made by English luthier Roger Giffin (seen in the 'Breakthru' and 'The Invisible Man' music videos and onstage at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert).
5-String Bass Guitar - According to the 'Greatest Hits II' and 'Innuendo' Off The Record official band score books, both published by Hal Leonard, it is possible that Deacon used a 5-string bass guitar for the recording of 'I'm Going Slightly Mad' and 'Headlong'.
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.
Deacon was mostly a finger-style bassist (pizzicato, however he did occasionally use a plectrum (a.k.a. a '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 an 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."
Deacon is the only member of Queen never to sing 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. 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" but he did sing backup vocals during a few songs. 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.
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."
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
- Queen, 1973, sleeve notes
- "Now bass ace John shuns the limelight". The Sun. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- "Queen Biography 1975." queenzone.com.
- "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
- Brian May. "Queen Legends".
- "03-XX-1975 – Sheer Heart Attack – Circus". Web.archive.org. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- ""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.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Deacon.|
- Queen official site – info on John Deacon – and all about his history in Queen