"Bored and depressed" by Queen's recent inactivity, John Deacon faces flak from The HIT over Live Aid and 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 the best authority that Steve Wonder actually knows most of the Steve 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 that someone asked -- I think it was the Sun or something -- because AIDS is so much in the press at the moment," John explains. "So they ring up and they 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 any way 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 bands'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 the gossip plumbing new depth -- 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," he explains. "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 I need something to full up my time..."
Those italics are mine. 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 Crallan -- formerly a member of Queen's road crew. And about a new single that 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 toghther as Queen but our working together as Queen is now actually taking up less and less of our time. I mean basically I 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 group's desappointing '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 decided to go more towards the things people actually associate with Queen."
The result was an album so successful that it raised Queen into a yet higher bracket of superstardom. A glorious rum of hit singles -- 'Radio Ga Ga', 'I Wnat 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...
That brilliantly theatrical and exuberant apperarance at Live Aid raised their status still higher. But it also gave them the impetus last month 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 go into the fund?
"As the moment, no," says Deacon. So have Queen have 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 from writing the song."
As with almost 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 boxed set this Christmas of all the albums, right? And they were arguing about whether the new single should be in it. Someone was saying that it has got to be in there because 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 thought, well, who's going to buy that? Obviously they'll sell a few to collectors but it's going to be a very expensive item. Forty or fifty quid or something..."
He's adamant that press criticism -- particularly in the mid-70s 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 set to work shortly on a score for a film entitled 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.
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 though 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-hand rather than necessarily what you read in the press. I mean everybody knows apartheid's wrong..."
So how would you justify your visit?
"We're a very 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.