Written by Mark Hodkinson (OMUNIBUS PRESS)
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The courteous lady sitting at her desk in Oadby Library is eager to please.
"Was that Dea-kin or Dea-con?"
She can't help, but thinks she knows a person who can, possibly. She calls the main library in Leicester: they have some books there on Queen, gracious smile. She passes over a leaflet too, for the Leicestershire Record Office. On its cover is a photograph of a bearded man holding a magnifying glass. They have some newspaper cuttings there which might be of use, another gracious smile.
Oadby is six miles south of Leicester, the last real conurbation before the flat, sodden plains of green around the belly of England. Crows bicker in damp churchyards, villages have quaint names like Great Glen and Smeeton Westerby, and tomorrow will probably be much like today.
The library is a sunny building situated behind The Parade on the main road winding through the centre of Oadby, past Threshers, Woolworths, Boots and the Old Manor Inn where fine ales have been served for more than 300 years. The library was opened on 1 November 1969 by John Peel, not the DJ who gave Queen their first radio session, but the MP who represented the town in Parliament at that time. Its staff have heard of Queen, but not John Deacon. In its files only two famous sons of Oadby are commemorated, both of them felons. George Davenport, a highwayman, and James Hawker, a poacher. Quite clearly, John Deacon does not have enough colour or verve to pass muster and make the town's annals. Eventually, a solitary one-line mention of John is found. This fabulously wealthy, internationally famous musician has his name on a tiny index card housed in a wooden drawer in the local studies section. The cards cross-reference to newspaper clippings Even here, poor John is allowed no rightful station. 'Deacon, John - rock musician, April 1974,' is placed between 'Daynight Electrical Contractors, Trade Boost, 25.2.74' and 'Deane, David, Marriage to Pauline Valerie Smith, 15.3.62.'
John Richard Deacon was born on August 19, 1951 at St Francis' Private Hospital, London Road, Leicester to Arthur Henry Deacon and Lillian Molly Deacon. The family lived at first in the Leicester suburb of Evington where John attended Lindon Junior School. Oadby, fast becoming a dormitory town for Leicester, was expanding rapidly in the Fifties, with an extensive network of new red-brick houses seeping over the countryside. Arthur Deacon had a certain amount of security with his job at the Norwich Union in Leicester so, in 1960 John and his younger sister of five years, Julie, moved with their parents to a detached house in Hidcote Road, Oadby. The road is on the edge of a large estate where cul-de-sacs and crescents are packed snugly into the available space. The properties are all strikingly similar, only the names of the streets change - Ash Tree Road, Brambling Way, Pine Tree Close, Rosemead Drive, rustic names for a rather monotonous suburbia.
After a short time at Langmoor Junior School in Oadby, John attended Gartree High School and Beachamp [pronounced Beecham] Grammar School, both of them situated on the same site, just a few minutes walk away from Hidcote Road.
During his time in Oadby John Deacon wasn't so much quiet, as not really there, more a ghost of a boy. There was, of course, a physical outline, but even this was magnificently ordinary: short hair, briefcase, shirt tucked in the trousers, shiny shoes, a courteous 'Hello' or nod of the head as he passed. He read electronics magazines and built gadgets out of transistors; fished with his dad on the canal; did his homework; collected locomotive numbers; tried to please his parents, and no one noticed him very much.
"I don't remember him doing anything, what a boring character! There's no point in pretending he was anything else because he wasn't. I mean, he always seemed very nice, but he was just a bit quiet. I don't have any remarkable memories of him," says Jenny Hayes (née Fewins), exasperated, unable to summon a single anecdote about John Deacon after an hour's thought. And Jenny should know some, she was part of the gang which spawned John Deacon's first musical venture, The Opposition. For a short period of time, two or three shows at most, she was also the group's go-go dancer with her friend, Charmiane Cowper.
"The clearest memory I have of him is being in a dressing room and everybody getting changed after the show and larking about. John never said a word. He never said anything, never spoke. Ever so strange. He just got on with it, did it, but you're talking about a completely unremarkable character," said Jenny.