Run to the hills, Maiden fans. Front-man Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography What Does This Button Do? is fun, relatable, and likable, just like the rock deity himself. Bruce is, after all, a different sort of heavy metal artist, so there is no reason why his book should also not be equally unique. Alongside the tales of an international rock star with travels to Sarajevo, Japan, Rio, Australia, and, heaven forbid, Detroit, Bruce is a brew master, a fencing master, an actor, and, oh yes, an airline pilot. In fact, with a large portion of his book devoted to his extensive pilot’s training, his enthusiasm of flying, and details of all types of planes, his family life is as silent and forgotten as unclaimed luggage.
Autobiographies, particularly those belonging to rock stars, are often filled with the cliched travels and travails of life on the road: cheap hotels, roadside bars, one-night stands, sex, drugs, and, occasionally, a little rock-n-roll magic. Surprisingly, not so much for Bruce and his time in Iron Maiden or even his solo career. Yes, yes, there are the typical hot tub parties and experimentation with hallucinogenic wacky weed within, but for the most part, Bruce lived a straight life, putting all his passion onto the stage, and then later, into the pilot’s seat.
Always a performer, Bruce’s recounts are refreshing and entertaining.
Even during chapters discussing a crushingly-depressing tour to Sarajevo during the height of the Balkan war, and his, thank Eddie, recovery from cancer, his style is open and welcoming. Although mostly linear, the narrative occasionally jumps around at times like an excited teenager anxious to talk about a cool concert or blockbuster movie. Again, and deliberately, Bruce foregoes any mention of his love life; his wives, his children. In his afterword he mentions this book is his tale to tell, and gives his family as much privacy as possible. However, such absences do make significant holes in his timeline.
The best of autobiographies are when the reader feels like the author is speaking to them directly while sharing space at a bar. Bruce does not disappoint. Tragic, engaging, and, real, Bruce is the real deal and enjoys the respect of his fans. Although, I’m sure he’d prefer it if you were drinking a pint of Trooper ale.