Earlier today, the virtuosic and fanatical guitarist Eddie Van Halen died at age 65 after a long battle with cancer, news that has put the rock community into mourning until “Panama” can get back on the charts again. Reading some of the fond remembrances and tributes from Van Halen’s peers, though, Vulture thought it would be the perfect time to unearth this nugget of knowledge from Van Halen’s peak touring years in the ’80s: The band’s tour rider famously included a clause that outlined, in strict detail, how a bowl of M&M’s had to be provided in the backstage areas at every stop but contain “absolutely no brown ones.” (They demanded exactly 12 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and 12 “assorted” Dannon yogurts, too.) Should any brown M&M’s be found in the bowl, concert promoters would forfeit the show and refund the band in full.
At the time, such a deliciously trivial request was shooed away as typical hair-band nonsense that fed into the band’s misdemeanor persona. (And, of course, as just an amazing piece of rock gossip.) However, the more nuanced reason was revealed by front man David Lee Roth in a 2012 interview with NPR: He and Eddie Van Halen had rationalized that, given the band’s technically complex and dangerous-adjacent performances, the M&M’s would serve as a litmus test for how diligent a concert promoter was. “If I came backstage, having been one of the architects of this lighting and staging design,” Roth explained, “and I saw brown M&M’s on the catering table, then I guarantee the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we would have to do a serious line check.” Roth likened the band’s tours to some of the “biggest productions ever,” and if something as simple as achieving M&M’s symmetry couldn’t be honored, it was a marker that the venue might be incapable of hosting the show. Such tasty ingenuity. RIP, Eddie.