Hello from the snowy North! Today we have a book review from Ben, who just finished What Does this Button Do? by Bruce Dickinson. So, without further ado…
Dickinson is one of the most fascinating figures in heavy metal or music in general. Not content to be “just” the front man for one of the most successful and beloved metal bands in history (Iron Maiden), he is a fully certified commercial airline pilot, nationally successful fencer, idiosyncratic writer, and modern renaissance man.
Despite his formidable talent, this book really brought me up against the inherent limitations of an autobiography. With everything coming from his own point of view, he manages to make his extraordinary life seem oddly normal. I constantly felt, while enjoying the undeniably entertaining succession of anecdotes he delivers, as though I was straining to read between the lines and see the man himself.
A note at the end, which states that he consciously chose to leave out any discussion of wives or children, helps explain the somewhat impersonal feel of the book. Any mention of romantic entanglement ends around his college years. In some ways I have to credit the way he resists any urge to be gossipy or to air dirty laundry. There are a few mentions of band politics or music business maneuvering, but there is almost nothing mean-spirited to be found.
Frustrations with the somewhat incomplete portrait aside, the book did amplify the respect I already felt for the man. As the title implies, he clearly demonstrates a powerful curiosity about how things work, and a willingness to dive deeply into any subject that catches his formidable attention. His descriptions of the nuances and physicality of vocal performance highlight his dedication to his craft and overall professionalism. And while there are a few moments of obvious but well-earned self-importance, his overall tone is down-to-earth and relatively humble, with a characteristically dry British humour.
If there were to be only one book written about Bruce Dickinson, this one would be insufficient. But it was definitely enjoyable, and should complement any other, more conventional portrait quite nicely.