When Queen watched video of John Deacon's last gig: 'He looks desperately uncomfortable'

6 July 2022, 17:38 | Updated: 8 July 2022, 13:10

The rehearsal video shows the band playing 'The Show Must Go On', and while Brian and Roger look excited to be back on stage, John Deacon is visibly withdrawn.
The rehearsal video shows the band playing 'The Show Must Go On', and while Brian and Roger look excited to be back on stage, John Deacon is visibly withdrawn. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake

By Giorgina Hamilton

Brian May and Roger Taylor released a video of them looking back at footage of John Deacon's last gig in 1997.

Brian May and Roger Taylor filmed a video where they revisited footage of John Deacon's last ever performance with Queen before he quit the band just months later.

Released as part of Queen's archival video series 'Queen: The Greatest', Roger Taylor and Brian May revisit the first time the band played together without Freddie Mercury and how Elton John stepped in as their frontman.

The video was filmed to remember the extraordinary collaboration between Queen and choreographer, Maurice Bejart, when the latter created 'Ballet For The Masses' - a dance-led stage show in tribute to Freddie Mercury.

The clip shoes a 'desperately uncomfortable' John Deacon (pictured) during his last performance with Queen.
The clip shoes a 'desperately uncomfortable' John Deacon (pictured) during his last performance with Queen. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
John Deacon would later tell the band he could 'never' play with them again after the fated night in 1997.
John Deacon would later tell the band he could 'never' play with them again after the fated night in 1997. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
Brian May reflects on footage of John Deacon's final performance
Brian May reflects on footage of John Deacon's final performance. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake

With costumes designed by Gianni Versace and with Elton John as their lead singer, Brian May and Roger Taylor recall the night they stepped on stage in Paris and the trio played their first real gig together since The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.

The rehearsal video shows the band playing 'The Show Must Go On', and while Brian and Roger look excited to be back on stage, John Deacon is visibly withdrawn.

Brian May recalls how 'traumatised' John was by Freddie Mercury's death that the cold night in January 1997 would be the last time John Deacon would ever play with Queen.

Roger Taylor and Brian May revisit the first time the band played together without Freddie Mercury and how Elton John stepped in as their frontman.
Roger Taylor and Brian May revisit the first time the band played together without Freddie Mercury and how Elton John stepped in as their frontman. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
John Deacon's last ever performance with Queen was captured in the footage, just months before he quit the band.
John Deacon's last ever performance with Queen was captured in the footage, just months before he quit the band. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
Brian May recalls how 'traumatised' John was by Freddie Mercury's death that the cold night in January 1997 would be the last time John Deacon would ever play with Queen (pictured at rehersals)
Brian May recalls how 'traumatised' John was by Freddie Mercury's death that the cold night in January 1997 would be the last time John Deacon would ever play with Queen (pictured at rehersals). Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
John Deacon was reportedly very close to Freddie Mercury and was devastated when he died. Pictured (L-R) John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Brian May, Freddie Mercury.
John Deacon was reportedly very close to Freddie Mercury and was devastated when he died. Pictured (L-R) John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Brian May, Freddie Mercury. Picture: Getty

"That was John’s last ever performance. I could tell he wasn’t happy because he was chain-smoking, very very nervous, and had been severely traumatised by losing Freddie," Roger Taylor says of the footage.

Brian May elaborates on the rehearsal, stating he thinks John's body was having a severe reaction to even being back on stage.

“Deacy, or dear friend John, I think he didn’t arrive at the same place as we did, and Elton John is there, but John (Deacon) is so desperately uncomfortable with the whole thing.

"You can see him kind of his whole body is reacting against it. At the end of it, he says, ‘I can never do this again, I can’t do this.’

&squot;John is so desperately uncomfortable with the whole thing," Brian May says in the clip. (Pictured L to R: John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Elton John).
'John is so desperately uncomfortable with the whole thing," Brian May says in the clip. (Pictured L to R: John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Elton John). Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
John Deacon (third from left) poses with Queen and Elton John at what would be his last gig with the band.
John Deacon (third from left) poses with Queen and Elton John at what would be his last gig with the band. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake
Brian May reflects on his last performance with John Deacon.
Brian May reflects on his last performance with John Deacon. Picture: Queen/David Mallet/Lynne Wake

"And it was true, that was the last time he ever played with us in public," May recalls sadly.

It's been suggested that seeing someone else perform as Freddie Mercury – who had died from AIDS-related complications in 1991 – was perhaps the last straw for John Deacon, who sensationally left the band just months after the performance was filmed.

While Elton John did a stellar job stepping into the shoes of the Queen frontman, it was perhaps too much in Deacon's eyes and just months later he announced he didn't want to continue as part of the group.

He re-appeared only briefly by joining Queen in October 1997 for the recording of the final Queen song 'No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)', included on the Queen Rocks album.

John Deacon has stayed out of the public eye since retiring. He chose not to appear at Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, or to join in the collaboration projects with Paul Rodgers or Adam Lambert (right in 2003).
John Deacon has stayed out of the public eye since retiring. He chose not to appear at Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, or to join in the collaboration projects with Paul Rodgers or Adam Lambert (pictured with Brian May in 2003). Picture: Getty

John Deacon has stayed out of the public eye since retiring. He chose not to appear at Queen's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, or to join in the collaboration projects with Paul Rodgers or Adam Lambert.

Brian May has said that Deacon is still involved on the 'financial' side of Queen, and that he also approved Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

In 2014, May and Roger Taylor admitted that they no longer have much contact with Deacon except about finances. Taylor said: "[Deacon]'s completely retired from any kind of social contact", and described him as "a little fragile."