In a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone regarding the upcoming Queen + Adam Lambert North American tour with Adam Lambert, May and Taylor admitted that they no longer have much contact with Deacon except regarding finances, with Taylor stating that „[Deacon]’s completely retired from any kind of social contact”, and describing him as „fragile.” May added however, „He still keeps an eye on the finances, though. John Deacon is still John Deacon. We don’t undertake anything financial without talking to him.”
He chose not to be present at Queen’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, or join in the collaboration with Paul Rodgers. On the Queen + Paul Rodgers collaboration album The Cosmos Rocks which featured new material from the trio, he was listed in the Thanks Notes on the CD. May insists that Deacon is still involved on the business side of Queen but chooses to hide from public sight. May also confirmed that Deacon approves of the proposed Freddie Mercury biopic.
After playing live with Queen three more times – at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness on 20 April 1992, in a charity concert with Roger Taylor in Midhurst on 18 October 1993, and at the opening of the Bejart Ballet in Paris on 17 January 1997, performing only „The Show Must Go On” with Elton John on lead vocals – he made the decision to retire from music, re-appearing only briefly by joining his ex-band mates in October 1997 for the recording of the final Queen song „No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)”, included in the Queen Rocks album released a month later.
Deacon has reportedly spoken out about the May/Taylor/Robbie Williams cover of „We Are the Champions”, recorded for A Knight’s Tale. In an interview with The Sun about the collaboration he said, „It is one of the greatest songs ever written but I think they’ve ruined it … I don’t want to be nasty but let’s just say Robbie Williams is no Freddie Mercury. Freddie can never be replaced – and certainly not by him.”
Deacon is the only member of Queen never to sing any lead vocals on any of their tracks. He has stated in interviews that he was incapable of competing with the three strong vocalists in the group.Deacon is not credited as a vocalist on any Queen album.
In live shows, Deacon did not receive his own microphone until the band’s first headlining tour in support of their Sheer Heart Attack album. Despite this promising development, the main purpose of this was to play one note on the triangle in „Killer Queen”. Before this, he had sung backing vocals during „Liar” into Mercury’s microphone. There have been occasions where his microphone was turned up to a point where his voice can be heard, such as a 1977 Earls Court bootleg, where his voice was clearly heard on „Somebody to Love” and „In The Lap of the Gods Revisited”. He can also be heard in a 1984 Milan bootleg singing part of a chorus of „Radio Ga Ga”. He is also credited as backing vocalist on the closing credits of the band’s first live video, „Queen at the Rainbow” (shot live in November 1974 and released on Box of Tricks).
Despite this, Deacon is almost always shown to be singing in Queen’s music videos, such as „Bohemian Rhapsody”, „You’re My Best Friend”, „Somebody To Love”, „Tie Your Mother Down”, and „Don’t Stop Me Now”, among others.
Deacon used the bass as a lead and rhythm instrument. Some of his bass lines, such as „The Millionaire Waltz”, „I’m Going Slightly Mad” or „You’re My Best Friend”, granted his technique an affinity with Motown’s lead style basslines. Some of Queen’s songs, such as „Dragon Attack”, „Another One Bites the Dust”, „Don’t Try Suicide” or „A Kind of Magic”, feature the bass as the main instrument. When performing with Queen, Deacon delivered a highly technical style, with numerous runs, walking bass lines and tight quick note changes. Deacon mainly used his fingers, though sometimes he did use a pick. He generally did not play with a floating thumb, and occasionally played with his thumb itself.
A trademark of Deacon’s playing are his bass runs. In a 1975 review of Sheer Heart Attack, the reviewer wrote: „Only at the end would a new initiate to Queen recognise John Deacon’s unmistakable trademark: the bass runs under the fade are as fast and facile as any to be heard. The least well known musician in Queen is one of his rock generation’s most able.”
Deacon’s contributions in keyboards were mostly just background chords; his most notable work is in his composition „You’re My Best Friend”, which was the first song he wrote on the electric piano. Deacon also played triangle in live versions of „Killer Queen” (it hung off his microphone) and some piano (notably on „Another One Bites the Dust”). He can also be seen playing the drums on the video for „One Vision”. This is perhaps a visual trick, although he did play drums on certain tracks on „Hot Space”. He also helped producer David Richards compose on synthesizer a slap-bass style lead for the verses of „The Invisible Man” from The Miracle album, while the chorus retains Roger Taylor’s melody from an earlier demo.
Mostly, Deacon’s compositions varied from pop rock to funk. He has been responsible for some of Queen’s biggest hits such as „You’re My Best Friend” (from A Night at the Opera), „Another One Bites the Dust” (from The Game) and „I Want to Break Free” (from The Works). He also co-wrote „Friends Will Be Friends” with Mercury and developed the chord arrangement for „The Miracle” with Mercury. Both went on theGreatest Hits II album. He also wrote two other popular songs, („Spread Your Wings” and „Back Chat”), and created the riff for „Under Pressure”.
As a bass guitarist, Deacon’s notable works include „Another One Bites the Dust”, „Father to Son”, „The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke”, „Liar”, „Dragon Attack”, „Brighton Rock”, „The March of the Black Queen”, „You’re My Best Friend”, „The Millionaire Waltz”, „We Are the Champions”, „Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, and „Under Pressure”. As a guitarist, he did some rhythm playing in songs like „Staying Power” (both live and in the studio) and „Back Chat”, as well as lead parts in „Another One Bites the Dust” and „Misfire” and Spanish acoustic fills in „Who Needs You”. He also played double bass, notably on May’s 1975 song „’39”. May had asked him to play upright bass as a joke but a couple of days later he found Deacon in the studio with the instrument, and he had already learned to play it.