At the time Bruce Dickinson published his autobiography many things were going on in my life that kept it on the back burner. He is one of the heroes of my young-woman and heavy metal life, and I was shocked and prematurely mourned when he announced his cancer diagnosis. A new album was expected but I was still uninspired by the previous album he made when he was healthy. My life was upside-down and I had little patience for much of anything, particularly the band Iron Maiden where I felt their music and tours were, while high-octane, mostly the same.
During another recent bout with insomnia I said, “fuck it,” so I downloaded the book and thought I’d have a look. I page-turned it to the point where mid-morning when I woke I was pretty sure it really happened to me; it wasn’t a dream, I was actually there in his tiny village in their tiny rooms with no televisions and few cars and people were losing their men in the war and little boys fell in love with aircraft. (Perhaps I had my first and only Edgar Cayce moment? )
Perhaps a better place to begin is here: Bruce is an excellent story-teller. Everything happens quickly, goes down easy, and you can see it all. What spoke to me most was his formative years up to when he began performing onstage, then his solo band’s venture into Sarajevo at the height of the war and their orphanage visit. The chapters that described his induction to the music life that introduced him to the Iron Maiden life, the interim years of solo life, and returning to Iron Maiden life had few moments I didn’t already know because I’m a Maiden fan and any fan who didn’t know those moments aren’t worth their salt were okay, and would be more interesting to those of us who don’t already know their story. He goes on a great deal about fencing which tells me it had a lot more influence on his life than any of us knew. I thought it was a hobby he was devoted to and not much more, but no. Same for his desire to learn to fly. I learned that he must keep his mind active, not just focused but laser-focused and full of creating and completing a task so he can feel okay; comfortably sane.
I knew before I read the book that he chose not to include stories about girlfriends and wives. This doesn’t surprise me as he’s always kept family closely guarded. He dedicates a passage to wife and children at the front of the book but that is all. In the epilogue he says he chose not to bring them in because the book was big enough and they didn’t move the dialogue forward. And that, my friends, pissed me off. Finding and falling in love and having children and all the stories in between does not move the dialogue of You, Mr. Bruce Dickinson, forward? Throughout the process of reading this book I kept hoping he would throw out a little mention of a wife or kid moment but no. It was microphones, amps, cassettes, managers, trousers, fencing partners, movie treatments, commercial airline pilot training. Not a word for the woman who stood behind him all those years? This might be a shocking comment coming from one of the Maiden females who wanted him all to ourselves, but leaving out any goodness you had with Paddy and your children makes it less autobiography and more like another Iron Maiden tour. This was my only disappointment with his work.
The casual reader will consume the book quickly because he’s an excellent writer. Here’s hoping he will regale us with more tales from the skies or possibly the stage because he is unstoppable. Not sure I’ll buy another album or see another show, honestly but that’s not why I’m here. I will end with two quotes from the book that spoke to me: “Nothing in childhood is ever wasted,” and “It didn’t matter what it was that you engaged in, as long as you respected its nature and attempted some measure of harmony with the universe.”