Top 10 John Deacon Queen Songs
Queen are one of the few classic-rock bands in which all four members individually participated in the songwriting process. Even though bassist John Deacon set himself apart as the group's least visible and vocal participant (he's the only one who did not sing), this most private of rock stars was responsible for composing some of Queen's biggest global hits. Just read on and you may find yourself amazed, as we delve into the Top 10 John Deacon Queen Songs.
This sublime ballad showcases both Deacon's innate melodic sensibilities and direct, unguarded approach to penning romantic lyrics – something none of his Queen bandmates seemed quite so comfortable with. Usually overlooked on the second half of Queen's 1978 album Jazz (which also includes Deacon's popular hard rocker "If You Can't Beat Them"), "In Only Seven Days" features many of Deacon's classic songwriting traits.
Further proof of John Deacon's range can be found in this playful bossa nova from the second half of 1977's News of the World, in which the bass player performs Spanish guitar alongside Brian May and is backed by a wealth of unusual percussion instruments that enhance the song's Latin flavors. "Who Needs You" may not be classic Queen – it's more a curious departure – but it provides solid proof of Deacon's expanding ambitions and the directions it would take in the future.
Unlike many of Brian May's guitar-driven creations, this punchy rocker from the band's only No. 1 U.S. album highlights Deacon's melodic flair. He plays acoustic rhythm guitar to soften the sharp angles on "Need Your Loving Tonight" into a buttery-smooth arrangement, simultaneously suggesting his Beatles influences and the period's power-pop inspiration.
The same facility for creating fluid electric/acoustic and hard/soft contrasts is evident in Deacon's very first composition for Queen, Sheer Heart Attack's whimsical "Misfire," on which he plays almost every guitar part, including the solo. But the song's greatest achievement was helping to establish Deacon's role among Queen's other three, far more extroverted, musicians – the role of “secret weapon.”
As he does on a few other tracks found on our list of the Top 10 John Deacon Queen Songs, the most reserved member of the group bears his emotions here in ways his bandmates (especially Freddie Mercury) rarely dared. Moreover, this heartfelt ballad -- written to order for the movie Highlander -- features a rare saxophone appearance (performed by session musician Steve Gregory, who also played on Wham!'s No. 1 hit "Careless Whisper") and a lush string arrangement that heighten the song's romantic message.
Deacon's lone contribution to 1976's terrific A Day at the Races LP launches with a rollicking piano part by Freddie Mercury before embarking on the sort of melodic mid-paced rocker that had become the bass player's style. But the upbeat love letter of "You and I" also builds in intensity toward a densely orchestrated second half scored in the patented Queen tradition, complete with multi-tracked vocals and guitars.
A rising appreciation of musical drama permeates "Spread Your Wings," which was released as a single in the winter of 1978 (and promoted with a snowbound music video shot in drummer Roger Taylor's backyard). It's the only Queen single without chorused vocals stacked behind Freddie Mercury's lead and delivered in a rare third-person narrative by the group, which encourages protagonist Sammy to follow his dreams.
Even though "I Want to Break Free" is closely associated with Freddie Mercury, Deacon composed the song for 1984's The Works. Mercury barely concealed his gay lifestyle in the song's hilariously tongue-in-cheek video. But "I Want to Break Free" is John Deacon's creation and was a worldwide smash that almost everyone could relate to. Its message about freedom – be it personal, political, spiritual, etc. -- connected in almost every country except the U.S., where the video's cross-dressing humor was totally lost on MTV and other mainstream outlets, which promptly banned it. So much for the land of the free …
How do you follow a stratospheric hit like "Bohemian Rhapsody," which celebrates rock 'n' roll excess with fearless hubris? By coming back down to earth with Deacon's tender love letter to his wife. "You're my Best Friend" was released as the second single from Queen's historic A Night at the Opera album and marks the bassist's first single as composer. He was just learning how to play the electric piano when he came up with "You’re My Best Friend."
The band’s best-selling single ever not only was a No. 1 hit, it also crossed over to the R&B chart. Powered by a nonstop bass line by Deacon, "Another One Bites the Dust" was inspired by disco giants Chic. At times the song sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, with traditional instrumentation (most performed by Deacon himself) surrounded by many distinctive sound effects conjured in the studio with the help of engineer Reinhold Mack. Tellingly, no synthesizers were used. But who needed them with a groove this massive and irresistible?