John Interviews

Innerview with Jim Ladd - Broadcast July 8th 1977

Jim Ladd: Good evening everybody and welcome. Tonight we’ll spend the next hour with John Deacon, bass player and composer for one of rock and roll’s most interesting and progressive bands. Their music is a study in variety that ranges from “up against the wall” rock and roll to extremely complex and intricate ballads. They’re highly proficient both in the studio and onstage, a unique combination of both musical talent and showmanship. And we’re about to find out how it is all accomplished in tonight’s Innerview of Queen.

[Keep Yourself Alive]

Jim Ladd: The song “Keep Yourself Alive” I like that. Who wrote that?

John Deacon: Brian May wrote that, our guitarist. That was one of the very early songs we had with the group Queen. I met them when I was at college, and we used to just rehearse and that was one of the songs that we had then. And they were essentially songs we just used to play you know, live, all of those…to audiences. And quite a lot of the songs on that first album were songs that we had had for a long while, and songs that we just used to play together, songs like “Keep Yourself Alive,” “Liar” “Great King Rat,” and other numbers. They’re songs that we just used to play. And we just went in and recorded them. And there were one or two numbers on that first album which were more sort of that first sort of sign of getting interested in doing things in the studio. “My Fairy King” was a number Freddie wrote which we only wrote when we were in the studio and it was built up in the studio. Whereas, you know as I said, there’s other numbers where essentially live songs, basically just the track and then just a few …….backing vocals and guitar solos over the top and that was it.

[Modern Times Rock and Roll]

Jim Ladd: If you can, would you give me a brief personality sketch, you can be as either complimentary or otherwise, as you would like of the other members of the band?

John Deacon: Well, I could do that, yeah. (laughter)

Jim Ladd: Of course I’ll leave that to your conscience.

John Deacon: I don’t know Roger is sort of the rock and roller of the group, Roger. I mean he loves touring. I like touring, I like being in the studio, a bit of both. I like to have a bit of time at home as well.

Jim Ladd: But Roger he just wants to….

John Deacon: He just likes to get out on the road and tour, and do the gigs. He loves it, you know.


John Deacon: Fred, Fred loves doing the shows. He really likes the big shows…you know, the New York's, the Chicago's and the LA’s, the more prestigious ones, where you get all the people coming to see you. He likes…. sort of hopes, there’s someone….. people in the audience watching him…but he’s a total professional. Every night.

Jim Ladd: But he’s into have people of renown coming to see him?

John Deacon: Oh yes, he likes all that side of it as well. But he’s a very, very hard worker. Cause he really goes through a lot every night on stage. He really sort of abuses his body onstage running around.

Jim Ladd: He gives his all.

John Deacon: Yes, he does, every night.

[Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy]

John Deacon: Brian, Brian is a bit more sort of a thinker. He puts a lot of thought into his songs, and the ideas. We don’t actually write songs on the road, but Brian sometimes often picks up ideas on the road, which he’ll develop later into songs.

[White Man]

John Deacon: I tend to be the quiet one of the group. There’s always one. And it’s often the bass player as well.

Jim Ladd: Yes, “the rock” of the band.

John Deacon: John Entwistle, a few people like that. Yes I tend to be the quieter one. But you know it takes, it’s a balance of four personalities, and them all being different, it’s very healthy in a way. And also with four people there’s plenty of ideas you can bounce off each other. And also you don’t get too extreme in any one direction that could be bad for the group because there’s always sort of three people to perhaps pull it back.

[Stone Cold Crazy]


Jim Ladd: I’ll begin with a question of how a song as simple and uncomplicated as “Bohemian Rhapsody” ever got to be a hit single in the United States of America with disco things going on, and that. (sarcasm) I don’t know, but did you guys expect that?

John Deacon: Um, no we didn’t really. When we finished the album, the Night at the Opera album, that was the track on it that we thought we were gonna release as a single in England first. And when we released it in England we didn’t necessarily think it’d be released in America, cause we know even over here, you know, the AM tastes are even more (hesitates) stricter. Anyway we did have thoughts about even in England, perhaps editing it down at all, but we listened to it over and over again and there was no way we could edit it. We tried a few ideas, but if you edited it, you always lost some part of the song, so we had to leave it all in. And luckily it took off anyway.

[Bohemian Rhapsody]

Jim Ladd: Do you see Queen affecting people on a sociological level, or just entertainers?

John Deacon: First and foremost I’d say it’s entertainment. But I think Brian puts a little bit more, there’s quite a lot of meaning in his lyrics. Whereas Freddie’s songs are more sort of in a fantasy vein. It depends on particularly who has written the songs. I don’t know, it’s how big we tend to take them, but I would say we’re mainly more on the just entertainment side. We’re not sort of deep politically motivated in any way at all, I don’t think.

Jim Ladd: It seemed like English musicians, or English kids in general, were much more educated to American music than Americans ever were. You know, it was English bands who brought back over to America a lot of the things that American kids had missed for a long time.

John Deacon: Yes, possibly, possibly. There was always a lot of American music in England until, obviously when the Beatles came around, then there was a shift towards English music, but before then American music was the main thing…It was sort of the Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, especially all that the early R & B stuff. Cause that’s what the English bands used to listen to, they started up then…the Bo Diddley, and that sort of thing, those records. American music was a big influence.

[Bring Back Leroy Brown]

One of the first things one notices about Queen’s music is the accuracy with which they execute their songs. They seem at times to be able to create almost impossible effects, both electronically and vocally, and have learned to play the studio, almost as well as their instruments.

John Deacon: We always find quite an interest on the recording side because of what we have on our records. There’s a lot of stuff on our records, you know. Especially when you get the headphones on, you can actually, you know….I suppose our thing is fairly modern in a way, because we do use the studio a lot. I suppose it sounds more modern in a way because of all the various multi-tracking we do. That wasn’t done five years ago because the facilities weren’t around. When we recorded our first album sixteen track machines were the thing. And we just used the facilities that they could do. Whereas a few years previous it was only eight tracks and four tracks and people were very limited to what they could do. It was more like playing music live, they would go in and they would play the music as they performed it onstage, and that would be it. But now working in the studio is an art in itself, because you can come up with sounds that you could never reproduce onstage.

[Tie Your Mother Down]

John Deacon: We had a chat with Roy Baker, who’s very well known now, who did our first three albums. And we needed him, cause he’s like a really good super engineer, he knew all the technical ins and outs of the studio. So he was able to tell us how we could do this, sort of record our vocals over 50 times, or do this “phasing.” The ideas that we wanted to do, just how he could actually, physically record them. But Night at the Opera, was the last album we did with him. We had done four albums with him, and we came to the position where, we had learned ourselves in the studio what to do, and one didn’t really need the services of the producer, because we had within the group, within the four of us, we had plenty of the ideas. All we really needed was a good engineer. So that’s what we did with the new album, A Day at the Races, we more or less produced it ourselves with an engineer. I mean Night at the Opera and Sheer Heart Attack, we had co-production credits on it, so it was sort of a slow thing when you’re first in the studio you’re new, you’re beginners, you have to learn. And then it depends how long it takes. You have to get that confidence in the studio to know what to do in time, and then you can sort of perhaps take it over yourself. Whereas it depends on different people, some artists just don’t know what goes on in the studio at all. But we’ve always been very interested in working in studios, how to get the best out of them. It’s just been a natural extension really, to just produce our own.

[Somebody to Love]

John Deacon: Our albums just tend to be collections of songs really, because we all write in the group, all four of us. Freddie and Brian tend to write the majority of the material. I think on the new album Day at the Races they wrote four each and Brian [sic] and I each wrote one, so there’s never particularly a concept for the whole album. It just depends on what songs come out when we individually made those. We usually have, before we go to record now, we usually have a few weeks where we’ve been writing songs.

[Killer Queen]

Jim Ladd: Anything else that you can think of that you’ve always wanted to tell American radio…where to go…or something you’d like to say?

John Deacon: Um…I don’t know…I must say American radio is good in a way because for new groups, especially like English groups that’s how the interest picked up on us over here. All we did was the first album was released, right, and radio stations picked up on it, and it’s a very healthy situation.

Jim Ladd: What’s the thing you’re most proud of, Queen?

John Deacon: I don’t know …different things for different people. We’re very very happy with the tour we’ve just done. It’s our first American tour that’s really taken us into some of the larger halls. That’s quite a big step. Our concert audience has really grown quite big this year. And also we’ve done some very big shows around the country this year, which we’re very pleased with. You know, we’ve done some of the larger halls, like we did the LA Forum, and in New York we did Madison Square Garden, we did one show there. Those are gigs you know, you’ve always sort of heard about, and this is our fourth time here, going around doing the small theaters, and it’s sort of our ambition in a way to play those. I know Roger, it’s really one of his ambitions to play Madison Square Garden. and LA Forum and things like that. I’d almost say we’ve done some very good shows this time around. Because in a way, our show does seem to come off very well in that size auditorium.

[You and I]

John Deacon: We do take a long while in the studio, especially Freddie, with the songs he writes. He has all the ideas sort of up in his head of what he wants to go on top and all the little things here and there.

Jim Ladd: Right down to the production of the song?

John Deacon: Oh, yes, yes. All the way through. We do spend a long while in the studio, listening to songs at each stage, and making sure it is correct as we put it on, you know.

Jim Ladd: Have we run out of time here? OK.

John Deacon: Are you closing me off, or something. (laughs)

Jim Ladd: Thank you very much.

John Deacon: Ok thank you very much indeed, yeah.

Well I hope you enjoyed this last hour and that perhaps you may at this point feel you know a little bit more about these four very talented musicians known as Queen. And of course you’re invited to join us next week for another Innerview.


Bored? Depressed? Lonely?

Cheer Up, So is John Deacon of Queen and he’s a millionaire.

"Bored and depressed" by Queen’s recent inactivity, John Deacon faces flak from the HiT over Live Aid ad South Africa and talks about the brand new Queen single "One Vision". Well you know us anything to cheer him up…….

The HiT has it on best authority that Stevie Wonder actually knows most of the Stevie Wonder jokes. Even laughs at some of them.

Likewise John Deacon, bass player with Queen. He’s heard most of the Queen rumours – including the latest, and scuzziest, from Fleet Street… that Freddie Mercury has AIDS.

"Well I heard someone asked – I think it was The Sun or something – because AIDS so much in the press at the moment." John explains. " So they ring up and want to know is it true? And if you say no, then it becomes ‘So and So denies etc, etc’ – I mean they can twist it anyway they want…."

The AIDS rumour is the latest in a long line of scandals and stories that have dogged Queen – and particularly the controversial Freddie – since the band’s formation in 1973. In the last three years the gossip has become steadily more frequent, increasingly more vicious coinciding with Fleet Street’s pop-gossip circulation war and Queen’s rise from pomp-rock stars who have hits to a state of near pop perfection…

It’s ironic then with Queen riding on the crest of a triumphant Live Aid appearance – and gossip plumbing new depths – that John Deacon, the quietest and most anonymous member of the group has pushed himself forward to speak…

" I mainly did it because Pete Brown (a PR currently working for Deacon) asked me to do it. I mean we’ve ended up with a lot of time on our hands now 'cos we don’t work as hard as we used to so now I need something to fill up my time"

The phrase has a hollow ring coming from a member of one of the world’s richest (the richest?) rock groups.


He’s here ostensibly to talk about a new studio that he’s opened in London with partner Henry Crallen – formally a member of Queen’s road crew. And about a new single he’s working on with Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown called ‘This is your time’ but he has little to say about either.

He seems crushed down by the inactivity during Freddie’s album, then Roger’s – "I can’t make a solo album because I can’t sing"

"We’re not so much a group anymore," he explains. "We’re four individuals that work together as Queen but our working together as Queen is now actually taking up les and less of our time. I mean I basically went spare, really, because we were doing so little. I got really bored and I actually got quite depressed because we had so much time on our hands."

That slow drag for Deacon started around three years ago after the groups disappointing ‘Hot Space’ album.

"We were disappointed with it too I think, so we really did talk about how we were going to attack the next album. With ‘The Works’ we decide to go more towards the things people associate with Queen."

Live Aid

The result was an album so successful that it raised Queen into a yet higher bracket of superstardom. A glorious run of hit singles – Radio Ga Ga, I Want To Break Free, Hammer To Fall, It’s A Hard Life – accompanied by deliciously camp videos, left Queen with more time than ever to slow up and bask in the glory.

The brilliantly theatrical and exuberant appearance at Live Aid raised their status higher but it also gave them the impetus to record a brand new single ‘One Vision’. Since ‘Queen Greatest Hits’ climbed back up the charts as a result of Live Aid, will royalties from the new single to into the fund?

"At the moment, no, " says Deacon. So have Queen donated money to Live Aid behind the scenes?

"Yes, Someone in the group has donated royalties from something, I’m not saying anymore. It wasn’t an album, it was the publishing – what you earn form writing the song."

Rows And Scandal

As with every decision made within Queen, the discussions over Live Aid provoked a row. Deacon is casual about it "we’ve been rowing since the year dot."

"We were doing some filming for the new video, right and after that there was this enormous row going on between Freddie and Roger. We’re doing a box set this Christmas of all the albums, right? And they were arguing about whether the new single should be on it. Someone was saying that it won’t be the complete works if it’s not."

He shakes his head, with a smile. " I couldn’t really get involved in that because I though, well, who’s going to but that? Obviously they’ll sell a few to collectors but it’s going to be an expensive item. Forty or Fifty quid or something."

He’s adamant that press criticism – particularly in the mid-70’s when Freddie Mercury broke off relations with the music press – stings very hard.

John Deacon lost his father when he was eleven, a shattering blow that he can still barely talk about. "It was rough, yeah," He says "It’s not easy growing up without a dad."

Perhaps it’s that pain which can make harsh rumour and scandal so cruel.

"I remember there was a time when one of the guys who worked for Freddie sold his story to The Sun or something. That was hurtful. You’re not embarrassed for yourself but because you’ve got friends, you’ve got relatives, you’ve got parents that are going to read it."

Queen are set to work shortly on a score for a film entitle Highlander which stars Sean Connery and Christopher ‘Subway’ Lambert. It’s the second feature by noted video director Russell Mulcahey and will preclude Queen from starting work on their new album.

South Africa

In the meantime they’ve to dodge the inevitable and deserved flak surrounding their visit to South Africa’s Sun City gambling complex.

Deacon States first that the complex has no apartheid – "only rich and poor" – and that the Musician’s Union were against their visit, "lots of other people have been there."

So what ultimately convinced them to play at a centre part-financed by the South African government in which there is no apartheid but which no African could afford to visit?

"I dunno I enjoy travelling."

The answer hangs absurdly lame between us.

"I’d like to learn first-than rather than necessarily what you read in the press. I mean everybody know Apartheid is wrong"

So how do you justify your visit?

"We’re a non-political band. We try really to keep out of politics. We’ll go anywhere if people want to come and see us"

He smiles. In Queen he’s the normal one…….

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