What Does This Button Do? (Book Review)
Released: 2017, Dey St.
I read this book shortly after I finished a book called IT’S SO EASY AND OTHER LIES, the autobiography of Duff McKagan the bassist of Guns n’ Roses. It was a exercise in contrast to say the least. For example, just compare the two books by glancing at the chapter titles. Duff McKagan, his co-writer, his editor and publisher collectively could not come up with anything more interesting than ‘Chapter One’, Chapter Two’, ‘Chapter Three’ etc. In contrasts, Dickinson’s chapter titles have clever references to J.R.R. Tolkien, WWII movies, Shakespeare, AC/DC, Thomas Edison, Aviation history and of course Iron Maiden. I had not even read a single word and my interest was already piqued. The phrase ‘highly-anticipated’ gets used a lot but realistically the official autobiography of Bruce Dickinson is just that.
In terms of technical presentation, this book is your classic hard cover, with dust jacket and several colour photos on glossy plates in the middle. It’s a perfect length, fun and broken into many little chapters so it never lags or drags.
Before you read a word of the actual book, I highly recommend that you go to page 367 and read his brief Afterword. It explains a lot about his thought process and methodology behind the book. This should have been his Foreward actually. Fortunately, I read the Afterword first for some reason so I knew what to expect and was consequently not disappointed…but I could have been had I not read that first. This is important because there is an enormous amount of material he choose not to cover, so you can temper your expectations. He certainly left enough material for a part –two, perhaps an even more business oriented version of all of his various other activities. He kept all of his personal life out of the book. Completely. It is so weird, on one hand he graphically, and I do mean graphically, describes his battle with cancer, vomit, feces and all, but on the other hand doesn’t mention that he has children! Out of curiosity I went to Wikipedia and read the mini-section about the personal life of Dickinson and learned more about his private life in a few paragraphs than in his entire book! However, we must respect his desire for privacy. The bottom line is he stated he wanted it to ‘tell a good story’ and he completely succeeded in that regard.
Back in 2006 an author by the name of Joe Shooman wrote a biography of Bruce Dickinson. I reviewed here on Metal-Rules if you care to read it. It was actually far more in depth than Bruce’s own book, in terms of his activities, hobbies and so forth. However, that book is now over 10 years out of date. It would have been nice of Dickinson to include a discography, bibliography and videography of all of his activities!
Now that I have explained what this book does not have, what does it have? Well, pretty much everything you could want. Stories about his early childhood, his family, boarding school, private school, military service, his love affair with aviation, his fencing career, his solo career, his dangerous trip to Sarevejo during the height of the war, his books, his beer, his TV shows, his radio shows, his movie, his battle with cancer, and of course touring the word fronting Iron Maiden. Each chapter is neatly broken down with a focus and great story, each of which serves to illustrate the events that helped make him, what he is today. In his Afterword he states he did not want the book to be a collection of anecdotes but at times it does comes quite close to that. He also says there is another whole book in there somewhere so I hope we will have more from him in the future. I’ve always admired Dickinson. The terms Renaissance Man and Polymath have often been used to describe him and for someone who is not familiar with his life, this book illustrates why this incredible driven, productive, prolific and funny man had created a life that many of us only fantasize about.
I was torn when choosing a rating. Initially, I was going to give it a lower score. I wanted a little more, especially from the man who has been known to deliver more but his autobiography delivered exactly what he promised. WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO? is marvelously entertaining and meets Dickinson’s own stated criteria and in that regards is one of the Rock/Metal related autobiographies you may ever read.