JOHN DEACON WAS THE QUIETEST MEMBER OF A MIDLAND-BASED FIVE-PIECE
WHOSE GREATEST AMBITION WAS TO PLAY ANOTHER GIG.
Initial research John S. Stuart. Additional researh and text: Andy Davis.
John Deacon's first group, the Opposition, pictured in early 1967,
in a front room in Oadby, Leicester. Left to right: Nigel Bullen (drums),
Richard Young (keyboards), Ron Chester (guitar), David Williams (guitar/vocals)
--check out those collars!-- and a 16-year old Deacon (bass)
John Deacon was the fourth and final member to join Queen. He became part of that regal household 25 years ago this month, enrolling as the band's permanent bassist in February 1971. His acceptance marked the culmination of a six-year 'career'in music, much of which he spent in an amateur, Leicestershire covers band called the Opposition.
From 1965 until 1969, Deacon and his schoolmates ploughed a humble, local furrow in and around their Midlands hometown, reflecting the decade's mercurial moodswings with a series of names, images and styles of music. The most remarkable fact about the Opposition was just how unremarkable the group actually was.
Collectively, they were an unambitious crew: undertaking precisely no trips down to London to woo A&R men; winning only one notable support slot for the army of chart bands who visited Leicester in the 60s (opening for Reperata & the Delrons in Melton Mowbray in 1968); and managing even to miss out on the option of sending a demo tape to any of the nation's record labels. The band's saving grace is its sole recorded legacy: a three-track acetate -- although even this was done for purely private consumption, and has rarely been aired outside the confines of their inner circle.
It is perhaps indicative of the Opposition's modest outlook that their most promising big for stardom, a beat contest, was called off before they had the chance to play in the finals. For John Deacon and friends, it seemed merely being in a band was reward enough.
Considering of all of this, it's easy to imagine the response to the following story, related in the 60s to one of the Opposition's guitarists, Ronald Chester. "There was a teacher who worked at Beachamp School, which John attended, who told fortunes. They went to see her one Saturday and were told, 'John Deacon is going to be world famous and very, very rich'. Of course, they all fell about laughing. She was determined that this was going to happen. But they all thought it was a joke."
What particularly amused Deacon's colleagues was the unlikeliness of this scenario, given the plain facts of his demeanour. John was born in Leisester in 1951, the product of affluent, middle-class, middle England. As a youngster, he was known to his friends as 'Deaks' and grew up to be quiet and reserved, what Mark Hodkinson referred to in 'Queen -- The Early Years' as "a ghost of a boy".
"He is basically shy," confirms Richard Young, the Opposition's first guitarist/vocalist, and later keyboardist. "I suppose he was quieter than the rest of us -- but he was fairly static with Queen if you look at him on stage."
Ron Chester agrees: "John was quiet by nature. His sister, Julie, was the same. Once he got going, though, he wasn't any different from anybody alse. But on first approach, you really had to coax him out of his shell. We'd have to pick him up. He couldn't walk down the road to meet us."