Sent to me by Harper Collins UK in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 19/10/17
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Hardback, 384pp
Summed up in a word: Conquering
Thank you to Harper Collins for sending me What Does This Button Do? for review. It was a generous case of ‘if you don’t ask then you don’t get’. I have always had a fascination surrounding Bruce Dickinson as he appears to have conquered the world in so many ways. Music, sport, radio, food/drink and aviation to name a few! I do love Iron Maiden, and there is plenty of content about the band within, but I enjoyed Bruce’s story not because of his rock star abilities but instead I was captivated by his overall outlook on life. Bruce’s life has many chapters and Iron Maiden is only one of them. What Does This Button Do? is an unapologetic memoir of a man who just has to break boundaries to keep himself busy. Full review below.
‘I was spotty, wore an anorak, had biro-engraved flared blue jeans with “purple” and “Sabbath” written on the thighs, and rode an ear-splittingly uncool moped. Oh yes, and I wanted to be a drummer…’
Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden’s legendary front man is one of the world’s most iconic singers and songwriters. But there are many strings to Bruce’s bow, of which larger-than-life lead vocalist is just one. He is also an airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, novelist, radio presenter, film scriptwriter and an international fencer: truly one of the most unique and interesting men in the world.
In What Does this Button Do? Bruce contemplates the rollercoaster of life. He recounts in his uniquely anarchic voice the explosive exploits of his eccentric British childhood, the meteoric rise of Maiden, summoning the powers of darkness, the philosophy of fencing, brutishly beautiful Boeings and firmly dismissing cancer like an uninvited guest.
Bold, honest, intelligent and funny, this long-awaited memoir captures the life, heart and mind of a true rock icon, and is guaranteed to inspire curious souls and hard-core fans alike.
What Does This Button Do? is a unrelenting, passionate and inspirational yet unapologetic journal of a man who just can’t take no for an answer. Bruce Dickinson did pretty well for a bloke who was earmarked as a non-singer from a young age. I wish I had the courage BD has to pursue his goals regardless of the fear. So many encouraging and influential experiences are available within this memoir. Tales of passion and persistence. Anecdotes of failure and standing up for yourself. There are stories in here that brought me to tears of laughter. Bruce is definitely an inspirational man but he is incredibly hilarious as well.
Though WDTBD? covers all of BD’s pursuits up until this point (though his deeper personal life like his marriages and children are under lock and key). Mainly comprising of Bruce’s thoughts and impressions on Iron Maiden’s meteoric rise to Heavy Metal kings and everything that happened during that time. What it was like at every stage of his career. His influences, development as a musician and the many challenges and triumphs he experienced along the road. Also included is his fencing career, his solo album efforts and his training to become a pilot. Bruce is fiercely untameable and his dedication to his craft has taken him to some strange and dangerous places. Tactically moving through a Sarajevo war-zone so the band can climb a mountain and play a gig is my new standard for going the extra mile.
Bruce goes in-depth about the highs and lows of being the lead singer of a hugely successful band; the adrenaline pumping performances, the fans, the pressure to innovate, burning out from endless gigs and everything in-between. The lengths BD goes to maintain his voice are phenomenal but he is a one-of-a-kind singer so the dedication appears to be worth it! I know Iron Maiden’s music is appreciated world wide but I have a newfound respect for the technicality and vast range of BD’s voice. He has tried and tested for his whole career as musician, never wasting an experience. He has pursued many avenues of music including instruments and a solo career which have all added dimensions to his work. I loved the fact that Bruce is not only a bookworm but he is a theatrical dreamer. Exploring new concepts, themes (usually horror) and artistic designs to accompany his music.
I enjoyed reading all about Bruce’s careers and pursuits but it was the humour that made this book a great read. Literal tears of laughter! Anecdotes featuring revenge urination, mysterious trifles, washing machines, enemas, undisclosed testicular injuries and so much more are present and along with BD’s tenacious and intense outlook on life makes for a engrossing read. There are also sadder and more humble moments in the book but BD isn’t one to dawdle on things for long; his memoir is consistently upbeat for the most part even in the face of adverse odds. BD does revisit his youth and the building blocks for his life. Refusing to quit under pressure is something he learnt from a young age. BD also learned to be persistent and to never stop learning. He is fair about all those who had an impact on his life, giving credit where it is due.
Each pursuit in life matters regardless of how small it is. It may turn into something huge. What Does This Button Do? is a testament to that fact. Bruce’s fencing career was used as a distraction and ultimately became a way of harnessing frustration. A radio career allowed him to reflect on what he has achieved and focus on the more important areas of music. Bruce’s addiction to flying is a journey of serenity and mindfulness. Yes he has had some close calls but each and every experience that BD has is collected and catalogued for a similar situation on the future.
If I was to bring up one issue with the book, and this is a personal preference, WDTBF? was more plane orientated then I would have originally thought. Towards the end of the book it is mainly aviation focused which I know is a huge part of BD’s lifestyle but I found partially difficult to follow at times. I got the gist but BD is certainly passionate (and technical) when it comes to planes and it was slightly out of my depth. Luckily he did insert plenty of Maiden sections between his flying portions so I was not totally left out. If you love Iron Maiden, musical creativity and aviation then you will 100% love this book!
The main attraction to this book for me was Bruce’s ideology and his ethics. It is what made this such an easy, fluid and compelling read. I read this book in 3 sittings because I couldn’t get enough of how driven Bruce Dickinson is with his life. Bruce’s outlook on life is an unusual combination of pragmatism and bull-headed passion. There have been many versions of Bruce over the years and each one has had the same drive and ambition. Image and focus changes kept him from insanity. Breaking boundaries is in his blood.
I highly recommend What Does This Button Do? for fans of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, musicians and those readers who enjoy individuals who give life all they have got. Bruce Dickinson is certainly a fascinating chap and I found his writing to be incredibly motivational. I hope some of his vigour will rub off on me and my work/blog life. We can only hope! Definitely try out What Does This Button Do? as you might feel inspired yourself! Or just learn some cool insider knowledge about Iron Maiden, their influences, internal developments and the lifestyle of one of the most influential individuals in Heavy Metal. And plenty of info about planes and flying of course.
About Bruce Dickinson
Paul Bruce Dickinson is a British singer, airline pilot, radio show host, DJ, Historian, television presenter, fencer and songwriter, best known as the lead singer in the heavy metal band Iron Maiden. According to Allmusic, Dickinson “was the most acclaimed and instantly recognizable vocalist to emerge from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement of the early-’80s”. (Bio from Goodreads)