In addition to his epic rock guitar skills, Eddie Van Halen and his band earned a reputation in another regard: as pioneers in unusual contract riders on their concert tours.
According to legend, the band required concert venues to supply bowls of M&Ms in their backstage dressing rooms — but remove all the brown ones.
It’s true. According to a copy of a contract rider from Van Halen’s 1982 world tour, the band insisted on a backstage supply of “Munchies” that included “M&M’s (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)”
But this wasn’t some rock star diva act, the band members later insisted, shooting down reports that they used any contract violations as an excuse to trash the place.
As lead singer David Lee Roth explained in a 2012 interview, the bowl of M&Ms indicated whether the concert promoter had actually read the band’s complicated contract and met all of the technical specifications.
“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets,” Roth explained in his 1998 memoir, “Crazy From the Heat.” “We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.
For that reason, he wrote, “The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function.” And the insertion of random details like the brown M&M clause served as “a little test.”
“When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl,” Roth wrote, “well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.”
Eddie Van Halen, who formed the band in 1972 with his brother Alex, died Tuesday at age 65 after a long battle with cancer.