A profile of John Deacon
from "Queen - A Salute"
John Deacon was the last member to join the Queen line-up. In many ways he is the odd-man-out of the group. He is several years younger than the others (the only 'child of the '50s'), and is noticeably less flamboyant than Freddie, Brian and Roger. His is, in some respects, the unknown face of Queen.
John was a science student at Chelsea College at the time he auditioned for the early three-piece version of the band. His playing as well his personality quickly won favour with the others and so, his arrival completed the Queen quartet in February 1971.
In spite of a full and demanding rehearsal schedule with the band, John was not prevented from spending the final months of his degree course studying with enough dedication to earn a First Class Honours BSc in electronics.
While John's public persona may tend to be somewhat subdued, there can be no doubt that he has been an essential influence on the development of Queen's musical style.
The first of his compositions to feature on one of their albums was Misfire on Sheer Heart Attack. The song, a fairly 'poppy' number, seems, in retrospect, to foreshadow some of Deacon's notable compositions in later years.
Possibly the first real indication of his musical personality came on the Night At The Opera album which featured John's celebrated song, You're My Best Friend.
"I think You're My Best Friend is amazing," says Brian May, "He went out completely on a limb to do that. It's not the kind of thing we'd done before but he knew exactly what he wanted."
To the horror of many down-the-line-hard-rock fans, John's predilection for funk gradually infiltrated into the Queen sound and threatened to transform it completely when, in 1980, the group released a John Deacon-penned single called Another One Bites The Dust. This was far from the thundering, power-rock style of Queen's best work prior to that date. Could Queen really be moving into the domain of disco-funk? The 12" version of the song rapidly ascended to the top slot in both the Soul and Disco charts in the USA. Who would have guessed that Queen of all bands would ever have beaten the likes of Chic at their own game? Not everyone looked on this as advancement, however, and some rock critics were openly hostile.
A reviewer in 'Creem' observed: "The bass line on Another One Bites The Dust lifted straight out of Chic's Good Times as if the Sugarhill Gang had never existed."
John was not amused. This was an example of just the sort of blinkered butchery which has led, with the passage of time, to John's contempt for the press.
These days, he agrees to be interviewed very seldom, remembering only too keenly the way in which his words have been twisted and torn on previous unhappy occasions.
"I wish the writers would stop making up quotes,"he complains. His absence from the grinding workings of the publicity machine has left John free to devote more of his time and energies to the important area of Queen's financial and business dealings.
Of all the group members, it is John who is most intimately involved with Queen Productions Ltd., the self created organisation which pays each of its four director-performers a reported £700.000 annually.
"John dominates business in the sense of legal dealings with other people," explains Brian May, "Which he's very hot on. He is the only one of us who can really keep up with what's going on. He doesn't let anybody off with anything. He knows more than anybody too, about the equipment. We have a very good crew now, but in the past John has been called on on many occasions at the last minute to fix things. He's a bass player and has a bass player's mentality in many ways. He's very solid and no nonsense. He's always got his feet firmly on the ground. He's needed particularly with Freddie and me because we tend to go off at tangents without any thought of where we're coming back to. Deacy will sit there and bring us back down."
In August 1981 when Queen went to Montreux to record, John Deacon decided to invite a friend of his to drop into the studio for a chat and, maybe, a bit of a jamming session. The result was Queen's second British No. 1. John Deacon's friend was David Bowie. The Bowie-Queen collaboration on Under Pressure was not a pre-planned event but really was just a chance happening as a result of this meeting of two friends.
In fact, the event was so informal, Bowie was later quoted in NME, saying, "I found that quite odd. I'm not sure how I got involved in it really... They turned up in Montreux so I went down to the studio and we just started on one of those inevitable jams, which led to skeleton of a song. I thought it was quite a nice tune, so we finished it off. It sort of half came off, but I think it could have been a lot better. It was a rush thing, one of those things that took place over twenty-four hours."
In spite of being on intimate terms with the 'not-merely-famous-but-legendary', Deacon remains singularly unaffected by the glamour and glitter of the Biz.
He is an unassuming, often intense musician, whose financial astuteness and business sense has guided Queen over the pitfalls which beset all bands and ruin many. Since the departure of John Reid, their former manager, in 1978, Deacon has assumed ultimate financial control of the group.
In spite of his not inconsiderable personal wealth, it is remarkable that John continues to enjoy a relatively modest existence at home with his wife and four children (he married before the success of Queen). Indeed, John's idea of an exciting social occasion is a good night out in the pub.
"It's nice to get drunk every once in a while, every couple of weeks or so,"he says, "I think everybody needs to. It alters your frame of mind and even if you feel rough the next day you feel a bit better."