There can’t be too many adults under the age of 55 without some form of casual acquaintance with Iron Maiden and their ebullient frontman Bruce Dickinson.
The feeling one gets from this endearing and amusing autobiography is that, while Dickinson is immensely proud of Iron Maiden and his role within it, just like any of us who like our jobs but prefer to talk about our other interests, he would much rather discuss all the other things he does that aren’t his day job. To any of us, just being the singer in one of the world’s biggest bands would be enough, but for Bruce Dickinson, after surviving an often brutal upbringing in various English schools where bullying and corporal punishment are the orders of the day, it becomes increasingly like a means to an end. “We went to New York to record,” he will write in a world-weary tone, then: “and then I discovered the local fencing club!” or “So, we went on a long tour – and then I went flying!“. The funniest anecdotes aren’t about what he and his bandmates get up to but instead relate to their normally august producer Martin Birch suddenly deciding to wreck things or throw chairs from hotel balconies.
That’s not to suggest Dickinson is at all jaded. He knows that his is one unique and fortunate life and his tone throughout is almost constantly upbeat, and he is, as expected, a natural story-teller. Yet he takes nearly 50 pages before he’s even joined his first band and breezes through the first five years of his tenure with Iron Maiden – one of the most significant periods in metal history – in a handful of chapters, instead devoting much more energy discussing his fencing endeavours and his deep love of aviation including a hairy flight over the Atlantic in the first plane he ever bought. Maiden’s record-breaking World Slavery Tour probably deserves a book of its own, but Dickinson barely mentions it, giving the reader instead a particularly thrilling chapter about the time he took a solo band to play in Sarajevo while the Bosnian war was still in full swing, and the tail end of the book focuses on his frightening but successful battle with throat cancer.
What Does This Button Do? is not a book about Iron Maiden, although they make more than just an appearance. It’s about Bruce Dickinson, the man, and what an inspirational and incredible man he is. This comes very highly recommended.
We have a copy of What Does This Button Do? to giveaway. Just email us with the answer to the piss-easy question, ‘Which band was Bruce in just before Iron Maiden?’ to enter