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, Deacon was the youngest and last to join. Deacon wrote some of Queen's biggest hits, such as "You're My Best Friend", "Another One Bites the Dust" and "I Want to Break Free". He also played rhythm and acoustic guitars on several albums as well as occasional keyboards, synthesizer and programming.
Deacon retired from the music business in the late 1990s, and has chosen not to participate in the Queen + Paul Rodgers collaboration. He was also absent from Queen's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001.
Deacon grew up in Leicester where his father Arthur worked for the Norwich Union insurance company. He was known to friends as 'Deaks' and attended Langmoor Junior School, Gartree High School and Beauchamp Grammar School in the city and achieved 8 GCE O level and 3 A level passes, all at grade A. It was in Leicester that he formed his first band, The Opposition, in 1965 at the age of fourteen. He played a rhythm guitar bought with money loaned by 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 (now 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, Leicester 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 of 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.
On Queen's first album he was credited as "Deacon John". Not long after its release, he requested that he be referred to by his proper name.
His first writing credit did not come until Queen's third album, Sheer Heart Attack. The song Stone Cold Crazy was his first writing credit but the song was also credited to the other three members of the band. The first song Deacon wrote on his own was the song "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 went on to be an international hit.
He was the 'quiet' member of the band, 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".
He lives in Putney in South West London with his wife Veronica Tetzlaff. Married since 18 January 1975, the two have six children: Robert (born 1975), Michael (born 1978), Laura (born 1979), Joshua (born 1983), Luke (born 1992) and Cameron (born 1993).
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 Brian May, for instance for the guitar part on the ending of Bohemian Rhapsody.
In 2000, Brian May and Roger Taylor participated together on a new version of We Will Rock You as Queen featuring boy band 5IVE. John expressed his unhappiness over the new version, perhaps also disappointed by such an uncredible musical union. John has also reportedly spoken out about May/Taylor/Robbie Williams cover of We Are the Champions. It was previously thought they had asked Williams to replace Freddie some years after George Michael had also turned down the offer to go on tour with them. According to The Sun, he was not impressed with Robbie Williams's version of "We Are the Champions", recorded for A Knight's Tale, 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". John was also less than pleased with the re-make of "We Will Rock You" done by Britney Spears, Pink and Beyoncé with Brian May and Roger Taylor for a UK Pepsi television commercial in 2004. May & Taylor have since toured and recorded with former Free singer Paul Rodgers, using the Queen name despite being only half the original band. They go by the name Queen + Paul Rodgers.
Let's just say that the product of drummer Roger Meddows Taylor and bassist Deacon John is explosive, a colossal sonic volcano whose eruption maketh the earth tremble. — Gordon Fletcher - Rolling Stone 149
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 the work of Deacon. Even if he never mastered his keyboard abilities, he would occasionally play synthesizers on his own compositions and often composed at the piano, playing an electric one on his top ten hit "You're My Best Friend". He can also be seen playing the grand piano in the video to "Spread Your Wings", although he didn't play it on the studio version.
As a bass player his most notable works include "Another One Bites the Dust", "Father to Son" "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 guitar player, 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 Brian 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.
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.
Another 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 recognize 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.
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 Musicman 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 1977, at the beginnings of "News of the World" tour in the States, he tried another Fender P-Bass, a 1954 Masterbuilt model, but eventually gave it up and returned to the black logo '67 model. The old Fender kept being used occasionally as back-up, 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 back-up 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 Deacon used for recording "Under Pressure" for the "Hot Space" album 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"), the entire Knebworth gig and Radio Ga Ga at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. In 1986, John 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 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, John 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 (though Brian May has stated that it was a Fender Rhodes). For synths, he used Oberheim OB-X, Roland Jupiter 8 and Yamaha DX7.
Queen songs John Deacon wrote that were released as singles:
Selected Queen album tracks:
Selected solo efforts: