“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN OF BRITISH BASS PLAYERS SUCH AS John Taylor, Stuart Zender, and Chris Wolstenholme,” says Canadian François- Olivier Doyon, “but I didn’t know much about John Deacon’s bass playing until I started digging into the Queen repertoire for gigging with the Queen Extrava- ganza.” The keyboardist in Doyon’s ’80s revival band Karma Kameleons hipped him to online auditions for the official Queen tribute band directed by drummer Roger Taylor. Doyon landed the gig and was performing with Taylor and Brian May on American Idol in a fl ash.
Have you ever met John Deacon?
No. He retired from the music business a long time ago and gave Roger and Brian his blessing to continue without him.
What discoveries about Deacon’s playing surprised you?
I was impressed by his versatility, and surprised by his melodicism. He composed “You’re My Best Friend,” and his bass line is melodic throughout the entire song, but he blends in with the band so well that you don’t hear everything he is doing until you listen closely. Another impressive tune that’s worth a close listen is Freddie Mercury’s composition “The Millionaire Waltz,” especially the piano-and-bass introduction. Deacon’s counterpoint complements Freddie’s piano part so well; it’s a challenging melodic part to play steadily at that brisk tempo without any drums to lean on.
Do you have any other obscure favorites?
The funky bass on “The Invisible Man” is cool because it’s very precise and tight. It sounds a lot like a synthesizer, but it’s actually Deacon playing bass guitar. It’s probably a Music Man StingRay, which he was known to use at the time. The part reminds me of something that Bernard Edwards would have played with Chic during the disco era, and the tone is something you’d expect in an ’80s synth pop tune. It’s nothing like Queen’s rock anthems. It’s amazing that Deacon could sound so different and be so funky.
Speaking of funky cool Queen tunes, what do you know about “Dragon Attack”?
Based on what I’ve heard from Roger and others, “Dragon Attack” came from a jam and was recorded on the spot in the studio. Wow! The way Deacon improvises around the main line when he’s featured in the middle of the tune, and, well, the contributions from the whole band demonstrate that they all knew their stuff really well.
Does Deacon get the credit he deserves?
He’s highly underrated. John Deacon doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you ask people to name their favorite bass player. He’s a low-profile guy; he was always in the shadows, but his playing was as important as any other musician in Queen. John Deacon is one of the players who brought the Fender Precision Bass to the forefront in the ’70s—just as James Jamerson did in the ’60s.
Fender Precision Bass with Bare Knuckle pickups, Squier Vintage Modiﬁed Jazz Bass ’77
Rig ’70s Ampeg SVT, Ampeg 8x10 cabinet
Strings Elixir (.050–.105)