"John just looked at us and said, I can’t do this any more”: Brian May on why John Deacon walked away from Queen

Queen at Rock In Rio, 1985
(Image credit: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Queen guitarist Brian May has spoken about bassist John Deacon's decision to step away from the band following the death of frontman Freddie Mercury.

May shared his thoughts while answering questions put to him by readers of The Guardian.

His comments came in response to a question from 'Timsporan', who asked, Did you have any inkling that John Deacon would leave the band and take no further part after Freddie’s death, and why do you think he walked away?

"All I can say is that, historically, John was quite sensitive to stress," May answered. "We all found it hard, losing Freddie, but I think John particularly struggled. We did do a couple of things together, in 1996: the recording of No One But You – the song I wrote about Freddie when we were putting up the statue to commemorate him in Montreux [Switzerland] – and one show in Paris. It was to open the ballet season with an amazing new work by Maurice Béjart, about Mozart and Queen. We played with John on bass, and Elton John sang with us. At that moment, John just looked at us and said, “I can’t do this any more”.

"We knew that he at least needed a break, but as it turned out he never came back. I don’t think that I can go into much more detail – we have to respect the fact that John needs his privacy now – but he’s still part of the machinery of the band. If we have any major decision, business wise, it’s always run past John. It doesn’t mean he talks to us – generally he doesn’t – but he will communicate in some way. He’s still very much part of Queen."

Elsewhere in the interview May reveals that he's a fan of Pink and Avril Lavigne.

"I’m ashamed to say how little I sit down and listen to music," he says, "I’m generally making music, or working in some other way – in astrophysics, or campaigning for wild animals – and I have three children and seven grandchildren. There ain’t much time spare! I do have a few CDs in the car that I tend to keep listening to. Pink is one of them. I love her. She’s incredible. I listen to the Foo Fighters a lot and I like Avril Lavigne – I don’t get fed up with that, I always find her music fresh. There’s an ebullience to it that I like."

Brian May talks about the creation of his Star Fleet Project collaboration with Eddie Van Halen in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which also features an in-depth look at the making of Queen's debut album, plus features on Tina Turner, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Yes and more. Read more about the issue here.

Classic Rock 316 front cover

(Image credit: Future)
Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.