The Reason Behind David Lee Roth’s Brown M&Ms Request For Live Shows

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Most artists demand special things from venues before giving a performance. Those demands are written in their tour riders which include each artist’s detailed personal requests. Although these criteria mainly consist of things like food, decorations, security needs, cold and hot drinks, some of them are surprisingly strange and unique in a way.

Among those bizarre requests of the celebrities are Madonna’s wanting her backstage to look exactly like her home, Beyonce’s demand of an exact temperature for her dressing room, or Pharell Williams’ desire for his dressing room to contain a framed photo of Carl Sagan. These celebrities sound quite self-indulgent considering their odd and extravagant requirements. Van Halen’s former frontman David Lee Roth is also among the artists who made a very specific demand prior to their performance: M&M candies, but absolutely no brown ones. Let’s learn Roth’s motive behind this request.

David Lee Roth’s M&M Request Was To Make Sure The Venue Staff Read Their Rider Carefully

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According to Van Halen’s 1982 tour rider, the band specifically requested M&M’s but with all the brown ones removed. Someone from the venue staff had to sit there and remove all the brown M&Ms from the others. As it seems, it was a painful and boring task to do. However, Van Halen threatened to cancel the show at the expense of concert promoters if any brown M&M’s were found.

Later on, this strange and quite specific demand turned out to be a business tactic. According to David Lee Roth, the real reason behind that was not the band’s disfavor of brown candies. In a 2012 interview, Diamond Dave revealed that if they found even a single brown M&M’s in the bowl, this would indicate that the staff didn’t read their reader thoroughly. Therefore, this would lead to the failure of safety measures which might put their band and fans at serious risk.

David Lee Roth told the story of brown M&M’s as:

“Many years ago, it was part of the Van Halen contract as we toured through the arenas in the 1980s that there would be no brown M&M’s found in the backstage area or the promoter would forfeit the entire show at full pay. This was touted wildly and widely as simple rock star misdemeanor excess and being abusive of others simply because we could… and who am I to get in the way of a good rumor?

In fact, the reality is quite different. Van Halen was the first band to take 850 PAR lamp lights around the country. At the time it was the biggest production ever. Getting it in and out of older buildings like the Spectrum in Philadelphia, or the Maple Leaf Gardens… These places were built in the ’50s or ’60s and ’70s, and they didn’t have even the doorways or the loading docks to accommodate a super, forward-thinking, Gigantor-epic-sized Van Halen production.

Back then, the promoters frequently didn’t read the contract rider, and we would have structural issues because there wasn’t the proper electricity or there would be load-bearing stress. So, in the middle of this huge contract rider (keeping in mind that most rock and roll bands had a contract rider like a pamphlet, we had one like the Chinese phone book), in the very middle of it, I put a clause that there would be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area or the promoter would forfeit the show at full price.

The point was that if I came backstage and saw brown M&Ms on the catering table that would guarantee to me that the promoter did not read the contract rider and we had to do a serious line check because we often had danger issues or accidental issues.

After seeing brown M&Ms, I then would ceremoniously and theatrically proceed to destroy the dressing room to try to get the message across.”

Below, you can check out the video where David Lee Roth detailed the story behind this request and that page of the tour rider in which it read ‘absolutely no brown M&Ms.’

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Photo Credit: The Smoking Gun