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Bruce Dickinson Recalls His ‘Bravado’ in Bidding to Join Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson
Karl Walter/Getty Images

Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has released an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography, What Does This Button Do?

The passage covers the months leading up to his confirmation as replacement for Paul Di’Anno in 1981 and illustrates how struggles with his career up to that point led him to exhibit “bravado” when it came to discussing the role with band manager Rod Smallwood.

Addressing voice problems he had while singing with his pre-Maiden band Samson, Dickinson writes, “I was in despair. I had sung on an album that was getting great reactions, but I felt like a fraud. My voice couldn’t do it. I moped around for a couple of days, crying into my beer, before my subconscious drew my attention to some sage guidance I’d received from my dentist ex-girlfriend. As an ex-pupil of the very prestigious Cheltenham Ladies’ College, she’d had quite extensive singing lessons, and she kept a notebook.”

The notebook led to him to develop a new approach to his singing, he says. “Technique is just empty unless you apply it,” he told himself. “You have technique to apply to your new voice. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and be smart. Learn how to be you. Teach yourself.”

“I started to enjoy my new-found pipes,” he adds. “I began to see that a whole new landscape had been opened up. If I was a painter, it would have been like being given a massive canvas and a whole palette of new colors.”

Then Dickinson began to realize that the record label that was showing interest in Samson was really interested in him, leading him to wonder if he was destined to remain with the band. When they played at that year’s Reading Festival, where Dickinson demonstrated his new vocal abilities, Smallwood asked him if they could talk.

“‘I’m offering you the chance to audition for Iron Maiden,’ he said. ‘Are you interested?’” Dickinson recalls. “There had been enough beating around bushes and tap-dancing around issues, I decided, so I told him what I thought: ‘First of all, you know I’ll get the job or you wouldn’t ask. Second, what’s gonna happen to Paul, the current singer, and does he know he’s going? Third, when I do get the job, and I will, are you prepared for a totally different style and opinions and someone who is not going to roll over? I may be a pain in the arse, but it’s for all the right reasons. If you don’t want that tell me now and I’ll walk away.’

“The speech was a combination of pissing in beans, injustice, sleeping on floors, bravado and genuine invention. If Iron Maiden wanted to play with the hammer of the gods, then bring it on. If not, take a hike and get someone more boring instead. As the saying goes, we should all be careful of what we wish for because we just might get it.”

Dickinson has announced a three-date U.K. book tour to coincide with the publication of What Does This Button Do? on Oct. 19. He’ll appear at the Troxy in London on Oct.17, the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on Oct. 20 and the Lowry in Manchester on Oct. 22. Iron Maiden recently announced the upcoming release of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter, which will arrive on Nov. 17.

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