BRUCE DICKINSON - What Does This Button Do?

November 21, 2017, a month ago

(Harper Collins)

Mark Gromen

Rating: 9.0

review heavy metal bruce dickinson iron maiden

BRUCE DICKINSON - What Does This Button Do?

Entertaining 370+ page autobiography from the Iron Maiden frontman. Initially, the English history/geography references will go over the head of most, but doesn't detract from the overall narrative. He proves himself an intelligent gent, especially with his turn of the phrase. Early highlights include an atypical upbringing (by his grandparents, as his entertainer parents perform throughout the country and when reunited, at age of 5, spending time in family owned hotel, then garage and auto dealership). Good, but bored with English boarding schools (father giving Paul, as Bruce is his middle name, the education denied him) and their sadistic corporal punishment, ultimately gets himself kicked out a semester short of graduation) for pissing in the headmaster's dinner. Enamored by acting, he eventually gets the singing bug, almost by accident (of birth).

Only after the first fourth, do we get to Samson, the band that truly launched Dickinson into the public eye. Naive to the way of drugs, it was a learning experience. Meeting with manager Rod Smallwood sees Dickinson boldly laying down demands. By page 100, he's in Iron Maiden and on the first tour, already jousting for stage room with band founder Steve Harris (the singer getting chipped teeth in the process), ultimately leading to backstage scuffles and the bassist demanding his ouster. Although he takes credit for challenging Harris and winning, as to the tempo of “Flight Of Icarus” (a victory that Bruce claims shelved the song from being played live, for more than 30 years), his first five years (three albums) with the band are dealt with quickly. It's mostly recollections about the logistics of recording/touring than actual details of song construction and/or specific gigs, although an entire chapter is devoted to Poland, in '84 and the first Rock In Rio concert.

As with any marriage/relationship, over time, there are more attractive distractions. So apart from discussing a malfunctioning stage outfit, there's nothing about Somewhere In Time, instead focusing on fencing, publishing books, solo albums and writing for movies. While the band finishes up recording, Dickinson sought out different locales (away from the musicians) in which to live, sometimes in completely different cities, hundreds of miles away. Free from Maiden he turns in many different directions, some good (the harrowing chapter on the gig in Sarajevo warzone) and learning to fly, others bad, the universally reviled (apart from its creator) Skunkworks album.

Doesn't say much about Maiden, in his absence, nor the meeting with Harris, to return, but by Page 275, he's back in the band. Bruce admits A Real Dead One was a pretty accurate title. Funny, when I said something similar to Janick Gers, in an interview at the time, management called my editor, complaining and demanding changes to the story. His airlines job had him in NYC during the 9/11 attacks. As the flying becomes more important, it garners more print. The final few chapters deal with his role in starting Trooper beer and lastly, the bout with cancer. Despite the hardship, Dickinson comes up smelling of roses. That's an amazing life.

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