Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holy Shit, Van Halen!


There are people who take fame in stride with grace and humility. Then there were the rock stars of the '70s and '80s, who evidently took fame as free license to take a figurative shit on anyone they met. The rock star prima donna is one of the most enduring archetypes of the 20th Century, and it's almost for good reason.


If we're going to address rock star douchebaggery, we can't very well ignore Van Halen and their bowl of M&Ms. The band had a standard contract that they would send to all of the venues they planned to play. One of the riders stated in no uncertain detail that the backstage area must have a bowl of M&Ms, and every brown piece must be removed.
Van Halen Greatest
That's probably not even the album name. They're just that full of themselves.

If these demands were not met, the band had a legal right (one they always exercised) to force the venue to redo the entire setup process. What a bunch of assholes, right?

Ha ha, NOPE!

As it turns out, the whole brown M&M legend was both real and a legitimately good idea. Van Halen's live shows were filled to the brim with technical equipment, and things could go farther south than the Falklands if their instructions weren't followed to the letter. Sometimes it's hard to tell if your equipment is properly serviced and set up, and when that happens -- or rather, when that happened -- stuff broke, and their roadies got electrocuted.
Electric Chair
There, but for the grace of a candy shell, go I.

So they came up with the brown M&M rule. If the bowl was there and the brown M&Ms were removed, the band and crew could rest easy knowing that everything was set up properly. If anything was even slightly amiss with their backstage refreshments, on the other hand, they could call out their hosts. They earned themselves a reputation for snobbery, but it's fair to say they also earned their loyal crew a night of not dying in a freak accident.
Brown M&Ms
The thin brown line

In the world of rock and roll, brown M&Ms (or more accurately, a lack thereof) saved lives.

Holy shit.

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