Book Review: Bruce Dickinson – What Does This Button Do?

In a way it seems almost strange to review a biography, doesn’t it? Even if it is one of the finest and most successful metal vocalists of all time. What am I doing; reviewing his life and giving him a gold star for success but could do better in parts? Let’s face it, before you even pick this book up you know that Bruce has had an amazing life that you could only dream of (or read the book).

Obviously I am not reviewing his life, just the book so it probably would be apt to start at the end and Bruce’s own afterword where he explains not so much what he put in (you’ve read the book at this point) but what he left out and succinctly put this as wives, divorces, children and relationships in general. Why does this matter? Well because it’s a biography and surely relationships are one of the key ingredients which ties us into the social world around us.

Bruce chose to leave this out to tell, instead, an adventure story of his life and this is what What Does This Button Do? is. It is the amazing adventures of Bruce Dickinson seen through the eyes of Bruce Dickinson. If you are a fan of Bruce’s recorded output I can guarantee this will make you want to revisit the albums as the tale unfolds. If you like a good biography to be a kiss and tell, well then Bruce is a true gentleman and he does not.

Regular Moshville Times readers will know that I overthink reviews at times and this is no exception so I was not surprised when I found myself pondering the question what it is even I (and others) want from a biography in the first place. Why this interest in someone else’s life. This was my conclusion –

  • Primarily, for me it is to be in the driving seat. Hopefully that biography is going to capture the excitement, of the first gig, first record, first stadium gig etc. It’s the magic of the creation. In this respect Bruce will not let you down, this is a great tale and told just how you would expect Bruce to tell it. Half tongue-in-cheek, half in your face, matter of facts, ups and downs. We get a close first-hand experience of the trip to Serbia during the war as a solo artist and the whole career from Samson, Maiden, solo and Maiden again.
  • You want to get behind the scenes. Basically you want to see an insight into that person’s life or the band that you would not otherwise be privy to without having read the book. Bruce does give you some insights into the band, how the song writing works and decisions behind some of their bolder moves. You do sit with him in the studio at times. What he does not really reveal is much detail about the interpersonal relationships in that band. We know that he was close to Steve Harris and that it is also Steve’s band but a lot of the relationships and tougher talk in the book is reserved for the enigmatic manager Rod Smallwood. Whether this is deliberate or whether Rod is ultimately the glue that holds everything together is not really clear.
  • You want his thoughts on different topics. Ultimately with Bruce you really want to know his thoughts on the split, the later reformation and ultimately what did he think of the Blaze Bailey Iron Maiden. Bruce is ever the diplomat and this is glazed over. This is an adventure story and not Bruce’s personal opinion.
  • Insights into the man? This book is completely Bruce, yes he may have left out the gossip but you get unadulterated Bruce nethertheless.

So what do you get? You get lots of stories regarding his fencing and piloting days. This biography is very much about Bruce and not Iron Maiden or even about his music career. There is a lot more to Bruce than just being a singer and these areas get just as much pages as the Iron Maiden story. You also get quite a bit about Bruce’s childhood, his relationship with his parents (the exception it seems to his relationship rule) and basically what built the man. You also get the full adventure tale and that alone is worth the admission fee. But where Bruce really lays his soul bare is his recent fight with throat cancer. This is raw both emotionally and physically and you get the impression that even now Bruce is putting a brave face on it and this was the hardest, individual challenge he has ever come across in his life.

This is a great swashbuckling tale and yes, it isn’t as gossipy as some biographies can be, but what you get is the tale of what has been an amazing life, written in Bruce’s own style and I for one look forward to many more chapters to come.

What Does This Button Do? is out now

Bruce Dickinson: official book page

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