What Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography
Dey Street Books
I jumped on Amazon the moment I heard about the pending release of a true Bruce Dickinson autobiography and instantly preordered a copy of “What Does This Button Do?“. I waited close to three decades for a proper memoir from the Iron Maiden camp, and I was finally going to get it from arguably the second most important member of the band. Up until now, the only insights I’ve had into Maiden, barring the meh interview I did with Dave Murray in 1998, was the occasional interview and the Blaze Bayley-era biography “Run to the Hills.”
There’s only one problem — Dickinson’s long-awaited book reads more like a timeline of his life than a true autobiography. The 384-page book is devoid of any insight into Dickinson’s personal life and emotional connection with his band. Instead, it is an encapsulation of everything he’s done, and he’s done a lot. Rather than rest on his laurels content with being the greatest metal singer of all time, Dickinson spent his free time training to be an Olympic-level fencer, become a commercial pilot and an accomplished children’s book writer (he doesn’t even mention that he’s a tank enthusiast). Most people don’t do one thing great in their lifetime, let along become a professional at multiple intense fields of study. It’s truly inspiring.
What’s missing is his relationships, be they with his bandmates, his wives or his children. Look, I get it, he wants to keep his life private, but then why bother writing an autobiography at all? I’m not looking for anything salacious or TMZ-worthy, but I would like to know that he actually cares about his children (most of whom are now prominent musicians) or that his wife stood by him as he fought and beat tongue and throat cancer. I can’t imagine he went through all of that alone. Then there are his bandmates that he created musical masterpieces with, fought battles with and triumphantly rose to the pinnacle of rock music with — most of them only receive a cursory mention in the book.
What’s included is an in-depth history of his life before Iron Maiden, how he joined the band, a little about the making of each album, his departure from the group and his eventual return. He goes in depth on becoming a commercial pilot (which is his true passion in life), his solo albums and his fight with cancer. When he’s touching on one of those topics, the book is engaging and worthwhile. Everything else feels rushed and written like Dickinson his checking a box on his resume. And in a way, this autobiography is probably just that — another notch on Dickinson’s belt of life. A life that is filled with what must be amazing stories that we will probably never hear or read about.