Rating 8 out of 10
“Take it Like a Man” by Samson has always fascinated me with its strangely perverse lyrics filled with sadomasochism and corporal punishment. Having experienced a perversely violent high school, the song resonated with me on a deep level. After reading the passages in Bruce Dickinson’s new book What Does This Button Do ? , I now understand why he wrote such a bizarre song. His corporal punishment exceeded what I experienced by a large margin.
If you are looking for gossip and complaints like the books written by certain members of KISS or stories of debauchery, sex and drugs like those presented by Aerosmith or Motley Crue, look elsewhere. If you want to read a story of triumph in the face of adversity along with epic tales of adventure, read What Does This Button Do? Bruce Dickinson writes a concise afterword that really should be read first. In fact, I highly recommend that the reader starts with the afterword at the end of the book, where he clearly states that this is not a story that dishes dirt. This is a story of a man who barely got by in school yet became a successful commercial airline pilot, an average athlete at best who became a highly skilled and ranked fencer and a person who against all odds became one of the most successful rock singers ever. He is also a healthy man who for no reason is stricken by cancer and prevails over the deadly affliction.
What Does This Button Do? begins with Dickinson’s fairly dysfunctional childhood, which leads to the aforementioned wicked private school experience. This culminates when Bruce exacts some extra wicked revenge in his headmaster’s food. Despite his school experience, he discovers a love for the in the sport of fencing. From there the book takes the reader on a journey from an unremarkable stint in college and the military to his discovery of hard rock, particularly the vocals of Ian Gillan, which in turn shifted his interests to music. While bouncing from band to band, he finally becomes the lead vocalist for the NWOBHM band, Samson under the moniker Bruce Bruce. While his experience with Samson, especially the eccentric drummer Thunderstick is glossed over it does lay the groundwork to how and why he was recruited to join Iron Maiden. From the get-go, Dickinson is firm that he will not take any gruff from the band and will not be part of its revolving door reputation. He does go into somewhat regretful detail on the dismissal of drummer Clive Burr. From there, the book is a whirlwind adventure through recording and tours. He makes it known how much of a force Rod Smallwood is in managing the band. As the quote from the book goes “I am not in the music business, I am in the Iron Maiden business.” Dickinson writes of his constant training in fencing and along the way his love for flying due to an experience with drummer Nicko McBrain. Dickinson’s departure from Iron Maiden is done with little fanfare keeping the theme of the book a positive. As a solo artist, Bruce hones his flying skills while encountering mortality in a harrowing flight mishap. He also comes face to face with the evil brutality of war in Sarajevo. In fact, the book contains a graphic picture that will shake your soul to the core. Before he rejoins Maiden, which again is described with little bravado, he cuts his hair and becomes a commercial pilot. Again the reader is treated to a series of events that are an incredible adventure in music and flight only to be brought to a halt by the diagnosis of head and neck cancer. This is perhaps the most interesting and powerful part of the book. For anyone who has a curiosity or fear of cancer and mortality, Bruce Dickinson goes into great detail on what the experience is like and because of his honesty, the story is one that is quite comforting.
Bruce Dickinson’s What Does This Button Do? Is a must read for any Maiden fan and quite frankly anyone who wants to read a story of adventure and triumph. The book is light on gossip and band history but is powerful on life experience.
I would like to add two tidbits: “Tattooed Millionaire “ is not about Nikki Sixx and despite the way Bruce casts off his experience in Samson, Shock Tactics is a great album that any Bruce Dickinson fan must have in their collection.
Review written by Joe Becht. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBecht