What Does This But­ton Do?

Bruce Dick­in­son

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One way and another, Bruce Dick­in­son has pushed a lot of but­tons: as a singer, air­line pi­lot, fencer, broad­caster, au­thor, screen­writer, song­writer, ac­tor, you name it. He’s driven and de­ter­mined when it comes to achiev­ing the tar­get he sets him­self, whether it’s be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional rock star, get­ting a com­mer­cial pi­lot’s li­cence or cur­ing his throat can­cer. He’s also a very af­fa­ble bloke with a wry sense of hu­mour who can take the piss out of him­self.

What Does This But­ton Do? is not so much an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy – although it be­gins like one – but a se­ries of mem­oirs. Some of them are scenes from his life, such as his first ter­ri­fy­ing pi­lot en­counter with tur­bu­lence leav­ing him pow­er­less as his plane is lit­er­ally blown over the moun­tains, or his vivid tale of go­ing to play a gig in Sara­jevo at the height of the siege. His eye for de­tail en­riches his writ­ing, his at­ten­tion to de­tail can be foren­sic, as the ac­count of his bat­tle with throat can­cer re­veals.

Iron Maiden fans should note that no dirt is dished here. There are no band pol­i­tics once he has es­tab­lished his place on stage along­side Steve Har­ris and drum­mer Clive Burr has been ma­noeu­vred out. There is, how­ever, a bril­liant de­scrip­tion of his first meet­ing with man­ager Rob Small­wood and a scathing put-down of NWOBHM.

There’s no in­sight into his re­la­tion­ship with Har­ris, and even his grow­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the band’s di­rec­tion is barely hinted at be­fore he sud­denly de­cides to quit af­ter find­ing a quote from Henry Miller in the LA Times that reads, ‘All growth is a leap in the dark, a spon­ta­neous un­premed­i­tated act with­out the ben­e­fit of ex­pe­ri­ence’. No men­tion of the un­pleas­ant­ness on their fi­nal tour ei­ther. In­deed you’ll find out more about fenc­ing and fly­ing a plane than you will about life in a rock band, although he does ad­mit that be­ing a rock star ‘is not all it’s cracked up to be’.

Sim­i­larly there are no ref­er­ences to wives, chil­dren, the Os­bornes or Nikki Sixx. Dick­in­son has set his own lim­its and he sticks to them. Some might ar­gue that part of the pic­ture is miss­ing, but the clues that point to his fu­ture char­ac­ter traits dur­ing his time at pub­lic school – which he hated but re­fused to leave be­cause he hated go­ing home even more – fill in many of the gaps.

Iron Maiden front­man’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is light on all things Maiden, but prob­a­bly bet­ter for it.

Hugh Fielder

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