Friday, April 12, 2019

Book Review: What Does This Button Do?

book cover for What Does This Button do?Bruce Dickinson is best known for his role as the lead singer for Iron Maiden, but fans know that he's accomplished so much more than that. World-class fencer, commercial airline pilot, novelist, radio presenter, scriptwriter, beer brewer are just some of the occupations outside of music that the man has pursued through the years. This memoir explores the passions of a man with an insatiable curiosity.

I wasn't planning on reading this book. Biographies and memoirs really aren't my thing these days. However, a friend of mine who shares my Iron Maiden fandom insisted that I read it, going so far as to mail me his copy. In the end, I'm glad that he did.

This isn't the "aging rock star looks back to cash in with a salacious tell all." Yes, there's bits of Iron Maiden in here, particularly how he came to be in the band, why he left, why he came back. Notes about recording the albums are there, too, but serve more to mark the passage of time. Rather, this is a story about the pursuits of the man over the span of his life (so far).

"Nothing in childhood is ever wasted" is a phrase that's repeated throughout the book. Although his adolescent education may have been ill-suited to him (other than instilling his outsider POV), the curiosity that inspired him as a child was still with him as an adult. While out on his first world tour with Iron Maiden, he realized that if he didn't find something else to do besides party all the time that he'd wind up dead. For his mental and physical health, he'd need to find pursuits outside the band. He would need to apply that childhood curiosity into a lifelong pursuit of learning.

He knew nothing of fencing, but it intrigued him. He trained rigorously until he was good enough to compete. He knew nothing of aviation, but it fascinated him and he kept at it, stealing time away while on tour until he accumulated enough hours in the cockpit to qualify for a pilot's license. Not content with small aircraft, he continued his education, eventually seeing him piloting 737s.

The book's concluding chapter references his recent successful battle against throat cancer. From diagnosis to treatment, few details are spared. While initially terrified, he was determined to beat it, though he acknowledges that the treatment, a mix of radiation and chemo, took a toll on him.

Believe it or not, there's a lot that Dickinson has done that I'm not even touching on here in this review. If you're intrigued by the man, it's definitely worth reading, just don't expect your typical rock star memoir here because you'll be disappointed. It's been said that he's a polymath. This book is testimony to that.

4 stars.