Bruce Dickinson

BRUCE DICKINSON as known by Nicko McBrain

 I think my first encounter with Bruce was when he was rehearsing with Samson in Kilburn, which must have been 1979. I remember I was playing pool and Bruce came out of the studio and he was very animated and very loud and I thought, ‘Who is this geezer?!’ His personality was way in front of the man himself. But as I got to know Bruce, I realised that he is a very intense guy. In the early days when I joined Maiden, he was very extrovert, yet he was introverted at the same time. When he gets a great idea, he won’t let it go and he gets so animated, but other times he would be so intent on what he was thinking about, he would be in another world. His mind amazes me. He’s a genius. He’s also an absolute lunatic – but most geniuses are! And inside there’s a heart of gold.

In the early days, there was a bit of ego. He was the frontman of the band, and you can’t be the stubborn brawny frontman of a band like Maiden and be timid and weak. Outwardly, very few things would phase him, but I know inwardly he’s a very sensitive man. We would have incredible times together, but he would also be a bit of a loner and go off and do his own bits and pieces.

He got into his fencing, which I completely admired about him, because he’s superfit now, but he doesn’t work out half as much as he used to. He was such a good fencer, he was actually asked to join the Olympic fencing team in the mid-to-late Eighties, but he couldn’t because he had to go on the road with the band.
Writing books was the next thing. He was unbearable when he was writing those Iffy Boatrace books, because you’d be doing something on the bus and he’d have just finished writing a new chapter and he’d want to read the whole fricking story to you! But he was so excited, you can’t blow someone out the sky for that.
I was very angry with him when he left the band, because of the way it happened and because I didn’t want him to leave. But when we all got back in the room to take that beautiful picture of the reunion, it was as though we’d all been on holiday for a couple of months, instead of four-plus years and in Adrian’s case, ten almost. The most amazing thing about making music together is that you really bond with your music and also personally, in your inner soul. There’s an amazing vibe that’s always maintained and even though we had four great years with Blaze, when Bruce and Adrian came back into the band, there was this incredible affiliation again.

A change I saw in Bruce from that time, apart from his enthusiasm for the band back like he had when I first joined it, is the genuineness of the emotion that I feel from him. He’s changed in that he seems more rounded and more content, although he’s doing so much more than before he left the band. He’s doing his radio show, he’s doing his flying and he’s got a part-time gig in a band as a singer! He is an absolute joy to be around. We’ve had so many great times on the ‘Give Me Ed’ tour, as we will do on the ‘Dance Of Death’ tour.

I think his finest moment on ‘Dance Of Death’ has got to be on ‘Journeyman’, because it shows a lighter side to Bruce’s voice. There are a lot more subtle emotions than you get with some other tunes and there’s so much more control. The emotion he puts into that track is phenomenal.

Paul Bruce Dickinson (born 7 August 1958) is an English singer, airline pilot, fencer, broadcaster, author, director, musician, screenwriter, actor, marketing director, entrepreneur and songwriter best known as the vocalist of the heavy metal group Iron Maiden.

Dickinson performed for some local bands including Styx (not the American band of the same name) in 1976, Speed, (1977–1978), and Shots in early 1979. He then joined the band Samson later in 1979, where he gained some popularity. In this band he went by the name of “Bruce Bruce.” He left Samson in 1981, citing musical differences. Shortly afterwards, in 1981, Dickinson was hired as Iron Maiden’s new vocalist, replacing Paul Di’Anno, and debuting for that band with the 1982 album The Number of the Beast.During his time in that band, they issued a series of high impact releases, resulting in Dickinson gaining worldwide fame, and becoming one of the most acclaimed heavy metal vocalists of all time.

Dickinson quit Iron Maiden in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career, being replaced by Blaze Bayley. Dickinson’s solo work ranged across a wide variety of heavy metal and rock styles. Dickinson rejoined Maiden in 1999 along with guitarist Adrian Smith. Since then, Dickinson has only released one more solo album, Tyranny of Souls. He is the older cousin of Rob Dickinson, lead singer of British alternative rock band Catherine Wheel. His son Austin Dickinson is the lead singer in metalcore band Rise to Remain.

Childhood

Paul Bruce Dickinson was born in the small mining town of Worksop, Nottinghamshire. His mother Sonia worked part-time in a shoe shop and his father Bruce was a mechanic in the army. Dickinson’s birth hurried the young couple into marriage. Initially, he was brought up by his grandparents; his grandfather was a coal-face worker at the local colliery and his grandmother was a housewife. This is referred to in his song “Born In ’58” from the album Tattooed Millionaire.

Dickinson started school at Manton Primary. Soon afterwards, when he was six, his parents moved from Worksop to Sheffield and he consequently had to go to a new school, Manor Top, which Dickinson disliked. After six months, his parents decided to move him out to a small private school called Sharrow Vale Junior. Of this period, he recalled “I grew up in an environment where it struck me that the world was never gonna do me any favours. And I had very few close friends, because we were always moving. I think that’s partly why I grew up feeling like such an outsider. I didn’t have an unhappy childhood, but it was unconventional, to say the least”. He also has a younger sister named Helen who was born in 1963. He tried to isolate himself from her as much as he could when he was young, supposedly out of spite because she, unlike him, was a planned pregnancy and birth.

Dickinson’s first musical experience was dancing in his grandparents’ front room to Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”. The first record Dickinson recalls owning was The Beatles single “She Loves You” which he managed to persuade his granddad to buy him. “I was only four or five but I really loved that scene, The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers. … I noticed they had B-sides, and that sometimes I liked them even more than the A-sides. That was when I first began noticing the difference between ‘good’ music and ‘bad’.” He believes that this marked the beginning of him thinking like a musician. He tried to play an acoustic guitar belonging to his parents, but it blistered his fingers.

By this time, Dickinson’s parents were earning a good living from selling property. A lot of Dickinson’s childhood was spent living on a building site, until his parents bought a boarding house where his father sold second-hand cars off a forecourt. The income from their business success gave them the opportunity to give Dickinson—then 13 years old—a boarding school education and they chose Oundle, a public school in Northamptonshire. Dickinson enjoyed being away from home. “I didn’t particularly enjoy being with my parents, so I saw it as an escape. I think it was because I hadn’t built any real attachment to them when I was very, very young.”

At Oundle, however, Dickinson was picked on and routinely bullied by the older boys of Sidney House, the boarding house that he belonged to. His interests at Oundle were often military. He co-founded the school wargames society with Mike Jordan, and he rose to a position of some power in the Combined Cadet Force.

Oundle was also where Dickinson became attracted to heavy rock. He has said :”I was 13 when I first heard Deep Purple’s In Rock album, and it just blew me away! I heard this thing coming out of someone’s room one day, and I went in and said ‘Whoa! What’s that?’ And they just looked at me disdainfully and went ‘It’s “Child in Time” by Deep Purple. Don’t you know anything?’ But I was too amazed to care. The first album I ever bought was Deep Purple in Rock, all scratched to fuck, but I thought it was great.”

Dickinson obtained bongo drums from the music room and practiced. Dickinson remembers trying to learn “Let It Be”. Other than this tinkering though, he never learned an instrument at school, and as far as his contemporaries can recall, he could not read music. Any technical musical skills that Dickinson now possesses were acquired after his stay at Oundle.

Returning home to Sheffield in 1976, Dickinson enrolled at a local Catholic comprehensive school, although not a practising Catholic himself.

In the summer of 1976, he joined his first band. He had overheard two other pupils talking about their band and that they needed a singer. Dickinson volunteered to do the vocals. They rehearsed in the drummer’s father’s garage and the band were impressed by Dickinson’s singing. It was at this point Dickinson decided to buy a microphone. The first gig Dickinson’s new band did was at the Broadfield Tavern pub in Sheffield. Originally called “Paradox,” the band changed name upon Dickinson’s suggestion, to “Styx”, unaware of the American act with the same name. They made local newspaper headlines when a steel worker was awoken by their performance. Of the incident, it was said: “He bottled the guitarist and chucked the drums off-stage.” Soon after, the band split up.

Solo career

In early 1989, Zomba asked Dickinson to do a track for the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, with a budget, a studio, and a producer, Chris Tsangarides. Dickinson took up the opportunity and called an old friend of his, former Gillan guitarist, Janick Gers. Shortly after meeting up, they had “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” ready for the studio. The song was composed with the assistance of bassist Andy Carr, and drummer Fabio del Rio. Later that year, Dickinson participed on a re-recording of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”, as part of the humanitarian effort Rock Aid Armenia. His intention now was to release a solo album. His solo debut, Tattooed Millionaire, was written and recorded within weeks, and released in May 1990. Backed by the band Skin, Bruce Dickinson, with Mr. Bean, made a cover version of Alice Cooper’s “Elected”, which was used in 1992 for Comic Relief, and five years later, on Bean Soundtrack.

For his second solo effort, Balls to Picasso, Dickinson received the collaboration of American producer, Keith Olsen. Unhappy with the results, Dickinson started working with Tribe of Gypsies guitarist Roy Z, to improve Olsen’s work. The album was recorded with Tribe of Gypsies as the backing band, and was released in 1994. That same year, Dickinson recorded a cover version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” with the band Godspeed for Black Sabbath’s tribute album Nativity in Black. Tribe of Gypsies departed to continue with their work and Dickinson tracked down another band. Now his new writing partner was Alex Dickson. After the supporting tour finished, he started working on a new album, Skunkworks. Dickinson decided the band would be called that, but abandoned the idea to keep his name on the release.

Due to musical differences, the “Skunkworks” entity ceased to be when the tour ended. After a short period of inactivity, Dickinson once again teamed up with Roy Z and Tribe of Gypsies to record his next album, Accident of Birth. Adrian Smith was asked to guest and remained later as a full-time member. The album marked a return to heavy metal for Dickinson; being a much heavier album than Iron Maiden’s, with a less progressive influence.Follow-up, The Chemical Wedding, was a semi-concept album on alchemy.[21] It drew inspiration from William Blake’s writings, with songs such as, “Book of Thel”, having the same title of some of his poems, and the artwork featuring one of his paintings. The record was even more successful than its predecessor, with engaging lyrics and powerful songs. Dickinson recorded a cover version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, with Montserrat Caballé, almost ten years after her duet album with Freddie Mercury. Scream for Me Brazil was a live album that documented a show recorded in São Paulo in 1999, during the supporting tour.

In February 1999, Dickinson, along with Smith returned to Iron Maiden. Dickinson performed vocals on the song, “Into the Black Hole”, for Ayreon’s Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator. Later that year, he collaborated with Judas Priest’s front-man, Rob Halford, recording, “The One You Love to Hate”, for Halford’s debut, Resurrection.In late 2001, was released a compilation album, titled The Best of Bruce Dickinson. This work also included a limited edition disc of rarities and two new songs. His latest album, Tyranny of Souls was released in May 2005. This time the songwriting was all split between Roy Z and Dickinson. Many songs were composed by Roy sending recordings of riffs to Dickinson, while he was on tour with Maiden.On 21 June 2005, Dickinson’s complete solo discography was re-released, featuring bonus discs with rare and remastered tracks. That same year, Dickinson contributed in the song, “Beast in the Light”, from Tribuzy’s album, Execution, and a subsequent live album. In 2006, was released a three-DVD package, Anthology, containing concerts from his career, promo videos and footage from his work on Samson.

Writing

During a 1986-1987 Iron Maiden tour, and in the wake of a divorce, Dickinson started writing his first book. He spent sleepless nights trying to give birth to the main character, Lord Iffy Boatrace. Iffy was an English landlord, whose problems were always related to the lack of money and quested a wealthy life.

The book, The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace (ISBN 0-283-06043-3), was released in 1990 and sold more than 30,000 copies almost immediately. Due to the high demand, the publisher, Sidgwick & Jackson, asked Dickinson to produce a sequel, which became 1992’s The Missionary Position (ISBN 0-283-06092-1).

Dickinson has also turned his hand to scriptwriting, having written a film script entitled Chemical Wedding which has been made into a film starring Simon Callow, in which Dickinson played a few small cameo roles and composed the soundtrack. Dickinson has also appeared twice in The Paradise Club, a BBC series.

Singing style

Dickinson never received a formal vocal training, but still possessed a wide vocal range which was trademarked by his quasi-operatic tenor. Along with Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford, Dickinson is one of the pioneers of the operatic vocal style later to be adopted by power metal vocalists.

Dickinson’s singing varied notably in the 1990s in the recording of albums such as No Prayer for the Dying, Fear of the Dark and his first solo work Tattooed Millionaire, making use of a much more raspy and unpolished sound, befitting of the stripped down style of the albums. Since returning to Iron Maiden in 1999, his singing style has returned to much like it was in the 1980s with Iron Maiden, though soft and reflective passages have been incorporated with the familiar operatic wail to suit the more progressive direction of Iron Maiden since the reunion. His voice has also lowered with age, making him a dramatic tenor in opera terms.

Bruce Dickinson
Background information
Birth name Paul Bruce Dickinson
Also known as “Bruce Bruce” Dickinson (in Samson years)
Born 7 August 1958 (age 52)
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Genres Heavy metal, progressive rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician,songwriter, author, pilot
Instruments Vocals, guitar, drums
Years active 1976–present
Labels EMI, Sanctuary
Associated acts Samson, Iron Maiden, Ayreon, Tribe of Gypsies, Skunkworks, Godspeed
Website http://www.screamforme.com
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