Van Halen is awesome. They had musical talent, understood the value of showmanship, and they raised the bar for lavish excesses and rock and roll lifestyle. Nothing was done in moderation. Live performances, guitar solos, big hair, and drinking all were grossly exaggerated for the era. And they hated brown M&Ms.
One of the most publicly discussed and infamous riders in contract history is Article 126 of Van Halen's concert agreements, which stated "There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation." It is frequently cited as evidence of the ridiculous demands that celebrities can force upon normal working folk. Brown wasn’t even a different flavor. It was a trivial and meaningless stipulation.
The parts of the contract that really mattered were the other fifty plus pages of the contract which detailed the technical needs for the show. Since Van Halen did everything more extravagantly than their contemporaries they needed greater attention to detail for lighting support, load bearing girders for the massive stage, availability of electricity at specific amperage and locations, and all the other things that made their concerts run. So it was more than colored candies when they saw brown M&Ms in their dressing room. It was a warning that the venue hadn't read the contract and met the specifications to ensure that the show could go on.
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