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Queen before Queen

"Record Collectors"
Initial research John S. Stuart. Additional researh and text: Andy Davis.



Despite any lack of personal dynamics, Deacon was a capable teenager: "He was very confident," recalls another of the band's guitarists, Dave Williams. "But in a laid-back sort of way. He didn't have a problem with anything. 'Yeah, I can do that,' he'd say. We used to call him Easy Deacon, not because of any sexual preferences, but because he'd say something was easy without it sounding big-headed. I remember saying to him once, 'I'm going to have to knock off the gigs a bit to revise for my 'A' levels. What about you?' 'No,' he said, 'I don't need to. I've never failed an exam yet, and I've never revised for one.' Ultimately, he was just confident, with a phenomenally logical mind. If he couldn't remember something, he could work it out. And, of course, he got stunning results."

John's earliest interest was electronics, which he studied into adulthood. He also went fishing, trainspotting even, with his father. Then music took over. After dispensing with a 'Tommy Steele' toy guitar, John used the proceeds from his paper round to buy his first proper instrument, an acoustic, when he was about twelve. An early musical collaborator was a schoolmate called Roger Ogden, who like Roger Taylor down in Cornwall, was nicknamed 'Splodge'. But his best friend was the Opposition's future drummer, Nigel Bullen.

"I'd first got to know John at Langmore Junior School in Oadby, just outside Leicester, in either 1957 or 1958," recalls Nigel. "We were both the quiet ones. We started playing music together at Gartree High School, when we were about thirteen. We were inspired by the Beatles -- they made everybody want to be in a group. John was originally going to be the band's electrician, as he called it. He used to build his own radios, before we had any amps, and he fathomed a way of plugging his guitar into his reel-to-reel tape recorder. He was always the electrical boffin."

The prime mover in the formation of the group was another Oadby boy they met on nearby Uplands Park, Richard Young. "Richard was at boarding school," recalls Nigel Bullen. "He was always the kid with the expensive bike. He played guitar, and what's more had a proper electric, with an amplifier. He instigated getting the band together. Initially, we rehearsed in my garage, and then anywhere we could. John played rhythm to begin with. He was a chord man, the John Lennon of the group, if you like."


Despite his later switch to the bass, Deacon's technique on the guitar also developed, as Dave Williams reveals: "Later on, I remember he could play 'Classical Gas' on an acoustic, which was a finger-picking exercise and no mean feat. It's a bit like 'McArthur Park', a fantastic piece of music, and when heard it, I thought, 'Bloody hell. You dark horse!' Because he never showed off."

The Opposition's first bassist was another school friend of John's called Clive Castledine. In fact, the group made its debut at a party at Castledine's house on 25th September, 1965 (their first public performance took place the following month at Gartree's school hall). Clive looked good and appreciated the kudos of being in a group, but he wasn't up to even the Opposition's schoolboy standards. "I was the least proficient, to put it mildly," he admitted to Mark Hodkinson.

"His enthusiasm was 100%," adds Richard Youns. "but his actual playing ability was nil, so we had a meeting and got rid of him." Deacon took over, initially playing on his regular guitar, using the bottom strings. "John was good," Young continues. "It was no problem for him to switch to bass. He hit the right notes at the beginning of the bar, and we were a better band for it. Whereas Clive made us sound woolly, as anyone who just plonked away on any old note would, John was solid."


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