It’s been 28 years since Freddie Mercury died but suddenly Queen is back in the news and topping box office and music charts, as well as launching a massive new tour. A new documentary, The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story, builds on the impact of the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody. One man, though, is noticeably absent from red carpets and concert stages. John Deacon is estimated to be worth up to £130million and has quietly raised six children with his wife of 44 years in the same South West London home he bought with his first proper royalty cheque. It sounds like the dream when so many stars go off the rails. So why would Roger Taylor brand him a ‘sociopath’ and Brian May call him ‘delicate’?
Deacon sensationally left the band in 1997, six years after Freddie’s death. The band had been finishing up demos and recordings left by their much-missed frontman, but at the time it was believed by all three surviving members that it was the end.
However, Taylor and May have continued to keep the Queen flame flying with various incarnations before the latest triumphant version with Adam Lambert. In the new documentary both talk about the pain of losing Freddie but imply Deacon found it much harder to deal with.
Taylor said: “John freaked out and decided he really couldn’t deal with being in the music business anymore, It was an odd period. Really the band was over.”
Other comments describe the bass player in even stronger terms.
Taylor told Rolling Stone: “He’s completely retired from any kind of social contact. I think he’s a little fragile and he just didn’t want to know anything about talking to people in the music business, or whatever. That’s fair enough; we respect that.”
But in another interview, he said: “We’re not in touch but John’s a sociopath, really, and he’s given his blessing to whatever Brian and I might do with the brand — and we’ve done rather a lot.”
May echoed the comments saying: “We don’t (keep in contact), really. He doesn’t want to. He wants to be private and in his own universe.”
He added: “It’s his choice. He doesn’t contact us. John was quite delicate all along.”
The term ‘sociopath’ seems rather extreme. Deacon was always identifiable as the quietest member of a band with three other very strong personalities.
Even Taylor admitted they chose Deacon for exactly that reason: “We were so over-the-top, we thought that because he was quiet, he would fit in with us without too much upheaval.”
Others, however, noted Deacon’s quiet but sharp humour and the particularly close bond he shared with Freddie and which many think he came to rely on to help him cope with being in the band.
All four members publicly struggled with the excesses of the rock star lifestyle, particularly in the mid-1980s as conflicts in the band grew. May has openly talked about contemplating suicide and Deacon spoke about depression.
Deacon’s friends and bandmates all seem to agree that losing Freddie meant the pressures and struggles of the music industry became intolerable.
College friend Robert Ahwai said: “He suffered from depression after Freddie died and I am not sure he has ever come out of it.”
Jacky Smith has run the Queen fan club for 37 years and added: “John just gave up after Freddie died. He and Freddie were opposites really because John is so shy and he was the youngest in the band. Freddie took him under his wing and they were very close for all those years. Freddie drew the attention away, and without Freddie there, I don’t think John could face any of it.”
Yet May also once said: “He’s very solid and no-nonsense. He’s always got his feet firmly on the ground.”
It sounds like maybe Deacon knew then and knows now exactly what he is doing. Quietly and firmly he has raised a family in Putney after enjoying more fame, fortune and achievement than most could ever dream of. Other may talk about him but he has simply lived his life.