To a generation of heavy metal fans, Bruce Dickinson was one of the true gods. Swaggering and menacing, his larger than life voice powered Iron Maiden through a string of anthems like Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number Of The Beast, Aces High and so on.
My abiding memory of him is how he pulled off an outrageous green spandex and codpiece outfit while exhorting the virtues of Stranger In A Strange Land, the song. (The main image above is of Dickinson in full flight during a 2016 concert in Buenos Aires.)
Now any Maiden fan knows there is more to Dickinson than meets the eye. Aside from his songwriting and towering vocals, he has a wide range of interests, from fencing to flying and authoring comic novels like The Adventures Of Lord Iffy Boatrace (1990).
This autobiography draws on those literary skills and weaves in as many of the threads of Dickinson’s life as he deemed possible or necessary. For a start it kicks off with an anecdote of an adventure he had as a pilot in which he was forced to land in Russia under threat of being shot down!
We then see how young Bruce didn’t really grow up under the care of his parents, who toured with a performing dog act.
With an engaging writing style, and as it’s written by the man himself, this is not one of those unauthorised biographies. You do get lots of funny little stories you wouldn’t expect, like the time he got into trouble after some impromptu boxing lessons from his grandfather.
That he was bullied at school is a big theme. As is his retreat into the world of music. His fascination with Wild Turkey, Deep Purple and prog rock bands led Dickinson down a different path from your average working class youth. Dickinson also writes of his encounters in the late 1970s with punk, socialist activists, and drugs.
What there isn’t much of is Dickinson’s sexual and romantic life. In that respect, this is the opposite of a kiss and tell book.
We learn about his time with hard rockers Samson and his eventual drafting into Maiden.
It’s interesting to see the dynamics of the band with bassist Steve Harris as leader, initially competing for space with Dickinson.
He talks of the departure from Iron Maiden of Clive Burr and how he eventually struck out on his own solo career before reuniting with the Maiden ship years later.
The latter part of the book deals with the battle with cancer that Dickinson fought, and how that too has given him a new perspective on his life’s journey.
This isn’t as in depth as one might have wished but what it does offer is entertaining and informative. Quite essential reading for the Maiden faithful.
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Author: Bruce Dickinson
Publisher: HarperCollins, nonfiction