The real reason behind Van Halen’s weird backstage food request


Written by:

So yes, Van Halen had a concert rider in the ‘80s that had a very strange and very well-known request. You know it; anyone who was a kid in the ‘80s knew it. It was proof of how cool the band was. How special you had to be to have people sift through your candy for you and remove all evidence of an offending color. Searching for…what? Say it with me: 

Brown M&M’s!

Van Halen’s concert rider actually used to state the importance of having not a single brown M&M anywhere in the vicinity. 

This was the height of ‘80s rock star decadence, and as 14-year-olds, we were impressed. Very impressed. 

But did you know that there was an actual practical reason that no brown M&M’s were to be allowed backstage?

There is. And it’s pretty cool and definitely smarter than we would have believed.

According to David Lee Roth, he was the initiator of the “no brown M&M’s” rule, and it wasn’t to drive the staff crazy with minutiae and drive home the band’s feelings of mega importance; nope, it was a test. 

A simple hands-on test. 

See, if Roth came to the venue all set up, and he found brown M&M’s in the dressing room , he knew the concert rider had not been read. In this case, the band knew their specific instructions for safety and prime sound quality had not been followed, and they began a sort of checklist of their own to check for problems. And when there were brown M&M’s, according to Roth, there were always other mistakes in the setup. Always. Every time.

So, through this incredibly simple, easy and very revealing rider request, Van Halen made sure that the quality of their shows was in their control, and the band got an early notice that something might be wrong all because of brown M&M’s. 

That’s not demanding. That’s brilliant.

This article was produced and syndicated by