For more than 40 years, British heavy metal band Iron Maiden has established itself as not only one of the most iconic rock bands, but one of the most iconic music acts overall.
One of the keys to Iron Maiden’s success is its charismatic front man Bruce Dickinson. Since 1981, he has brought his trademark operatic vocal style to the band and laid the foundation for heavy metal vocalists since. But despite his image as one of the most iconic heavy metal singers, Dickinson has taken part in many other extracurricular activities, including fencing, motivational speaking and flying commercial airliners. While he gives interviews on a very frequent basis, Dickinson has never given fans the full story on how he got to where he is currently, until now.
Two years in the making, What Does This Button Do? gives fans an up close and personal look at the life of a heavy metal icon. Unlike other rock biographies, which are written largely with the assistance of ghostwriters, this one was written entirely by Dickinson himself in long form. The overall structure is also different from similar books. While it starts off as an autobiography, the book soon delves into a series of scenes from his life, each of which is told with his vivid eye for detail.
In terms of his music, Dickinson covers a wide range of bands throughout his career, both during and outside of his time in Iron Maiden. He touches on everything from playing for cult classic metal band Samson to his solo career after initially leaving Iron Maiden in 1993. The days in Iron Maiden are primarily focused on both the creation of the band’s classic albums and several humorous stories from that band’s various tours.
One fascinating revelation that Dickinson brings to light is a failed attempt at forming a heavy metal supergroup back in the mid ‘90s, with his choice in vocalists including fellow metal singers like Judas Priests’ Rob Halford, as well as Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his self-titled band Dio.
Fans looking to gain some hefty inside information about Dickinson’s time in Iron Maiden, like his relationship with bass guitarist and songwriter Steve Harris, and the events that led to his decision to initially leave the band in 1993, are going to be somewhat disappointed in this book. If anything, his career as a musician is sort of brushed to the side compared to his hobbies of fencing and flying airplanes, though he does admit in the book that the life of a metal musician is “not as cracked up to be.”
Dickinson’s personal life is also not featured in great detail. As the musician explains in the acknowledgements, he made it a point to have “no births, marriages or divorces of me or anybody else.” While its inclusion may have made the book even more of a fascinating read, this would have increased its overall length. At 400 pages, the book is long enough as it is.
A common recurring theme throughout the book is passion and dedication. Whenever Dickinson gets involved in a new activity or hobby, he does not just casually take part in it. Rather, he makes an effort to embrace it and become as skilled at it as possible. One example is his fencing skills. In addition to spending an endless number of hours practicing, Dickinson also brought in Olympic-level trainers to help hone his skills.
This motivational aspect of the book also carries over into Dickinson’s 2015 cancer battle, in which he endured the long and agonizing process of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to combat his tumor. In some ways, this book serves as not only a look into Dickinson’s life, but also as an effective motivational tool that leaves readers with strong life lessons that will stick with them long after reading.
While Dickinson’s own story is still being told, What Does This Button Do? shows an artist looking back at where he has been and how these events helped shape him into both the singer and person he has become. While it is a definite recommendation for both fans of Iron Maiden and heavy metal as a whole, other readers can also get a lot from the motivational aspect of the book. For those looking for more from Dickinson, Iron Maiden is set to release The Book of Souls: Live Chapter on Nov. 17, a live compilation of various shows from the band’s recently completed world tour for the album of the same name.
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