Brown M&Ms

I’m old enough to remember the 80s. The Miner’s Strike. The shoulder-pads. The casual racism. And the hair metal bands.

There was always a rumour going around that van Halen used to have champagne, cocaine and hookers on their rider. Plus a clause that specified that they wanted a bowl of M&Ms – but if they found a brown one in there, the gig was off.

They were a hair-metal band. Big hair-dos. Bigger egos. Of course they would insist on no brown M&Ms. That’s the sort of things that over-the-top rock stars do isn’t it?

Well, a few years ago, their manager revealed that it was true – their contracts did have a “no brown M&Ms” clause in it. But it wasn’t because they were overblown prima donnas.

Van Halen had big hair. And an even bigger lighting rig. The engineering to assemble and disassemble it in one night was quite a feat. And get it wrong and the whole thing could collapse, causing injury and probably death.

So they used to include the brown M&M clause, buried away in the middle of the contract, as a sign that the promoter had actually read the thing. If they hadn’t, if they didn’t question the clause, if they found a brown M&M, then van Halen knew that they could not trust that the promoter had read the precise instructions about setting up the rig. And if they hadn’t read that, the gig really was off.