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