It’s hard to believe Bruce Dickinson, the falsetto-ed voice behind Iron Maiden and one of the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (a term he’s not exactly enamored with) has never written his memoirs before now. While book shelves are bowing under the weight of countless rock bios by singers who have done far, far less than Dickinson (ahem, Stephen Pearcy; Sebastian Bach…), the Maiden singer has been busy living a remarkably full life.
While not exactly revealing – you never get a strong sense of where he stands on most issues outside of music – What Does This Button Do is nevertheless a compelling read about one of the most influential musicians in heavy metal. Dickinson delicately tiptoes around the personalities of his bandmates and their powerful manager, never insulting, but making clear that the band was neither a democracy nor did the de facto leaders see eye to eye all the time. He barely mentions his reason for leaving the band in the early ‘90s and is almost just as matter of fact about why the he rejoined in ’99. The only topic he spends more time on is his fascinating dual career as a pilot. He didn’t learn to fly until he was already a full-time musician and his escalation from flying two-seaters to piloting 757s happened over decades. At one point, he was employed as a commercial airline pilot and would take time off throughout the year to tour with Maiden (and fly their plane, naturally). The chapters about a solo Dickinson playing a gig in Sarajevo at the height of the war, as well as his recent battle with cancer are easily the most compelling here, but overall, it’s simply a fun read.
Curiously there are no mentions of any marriages or children, despite Dickinson having both, but he explains at the end of the book that he made a conscious decision early on to not devote any ink to marriages, divorces or births. “There is enough here to be getting on with,” he writes. There is also a lack of any political discussion throughout, so you’d be hard pressed, from reading the book, to have any idea of where the singer stands on just about any issues outside of music or flying. But, maybe that’s the point. For Dickinson, maybe that’s all there needs to be.