John Richard Deacon was born 19 August, 1951, in Leicester and we know him and love him as the ever-dependable – and, more often than not, inspirational – bassist in Queen. Although he continued working sporadically until 1997, Deacon effectively retired after the death of singer Freddie Mercury in 1991, and while he has endorsed subsequent Queen projects, he has declined to be involved on a playing level. Deacon continues to be very much part of the Queen organisation and is still considered a member of the band by both Brian May and Roger Taylor, albeit one you’re unlikely to see on stage. Apart from that Deacon spends his time with his wife of over 30 years and six children, honing his golf game and justifiably living off the fruits of over two decades of hard graft with Queen. For more on the man’s life and achievements, we recommend you check out Michael Heatley’s rather fine Reasons To Salute feature on the man in our August 2007 issue.
From a player’s point of view, John Deacon is probably the chairman of the Union of Criminally Underrated Bass Players. His studiously low profile and basic shyness have undoubtedly contributed to this, although these qualities probably helped him land the gig with Queen in the first place!
We could dedicate a whole issue to John Deacon’s low-end legacy, but in the interests of brevity we’ve decided to limit our examples to those based on songs from the Greatest Hits collection. If you take the time to really listen to Deacon’s grooves, you’ll be surprised by just how tasteful and melodic they are, let alone how good your technique needs to be to reproduce them. In many cases, and we’re not just talking about Another One Bites The Dust (one of his many stellar songwriting contributions), his basslines are the next most important element after the vocals… and yet they never get in their way.
Deacon was a huge fan of Motown’s James Jamerson but his willingness to use the higher registers for grooves and the many scalar ideas that function as fills, hooks or to illuminate the path from chord to chord are much closer to The Beatles’ Paul McCartney. His tone, predominantly brought to us via a Fender Precision, is a superb combination of width and definition. Whether providing bottom-end boogie low or venturing up the dusty end, Deacon rarely wastes a note, even at his most frenetic. He’s a splendid example of a bassist who always plays for the song and invariably comes up with something rather special.