Here’s another post from my WNEW.com archives. Responsibility for the title of this post is solely mine.
In March 1978, Van Halen began its first tour as a headliner—which means we’ve reached the anniversary of the most famous tour rider in showbiz history. A tour rider is the part of a performing contract that specifies what the promoter booking the band must provide in terms of stage design, sound, and lighting for the event, transportation of the band and equipment to and from the arena, and in most cases, special arrangements to be made for the personal requirements of band members and crew. In Van Halen’s case, their tour rider famously specified that they were to be provided with M&M candies backstage, but no brown ones. According to The Smoking Gun, the request was not so much rock-star excess as it was a strategy to make sure the promoters actually read the rider. If brown M&Ms showed up backstage, the promoter may have cut corners on other, more important aspects of the show.
Over time, The Smoking Gun collected dozens of other tour riders. What follows is a selection of the backstage requirements of some other prominent rockers—not everything they asked for, just a few of the more interesting items expected on recent tours.
The Rolling Stones: a snooker table (not a pool table) and video games “suitable for families and small children.”
Aerosmith: SOLO brand plastic cups (colored, not transparent), corn on the cob (fresh ears, cooked three minutes), no canned fruit, no pressed meats, no processed cheese, chewing gum, Snapple, formal tea service.
Metallica: Do not put meat and cheese on the same tray.
Billy Joel: easy chairs (not recliners), no pre-sliced cheeses
What is it with rockers and their cheeses?
KISS: Kleenex tissues in square boutique boxes
Ozzy Osbourne: ear, nose and throat doctor on site whenever Ozzy is present; doctor must be able to administer B12 and other shots.
Axl Rose: one bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, one loaf of Wonder bread
Crosby Stills and Nash: Paper plates and napkins OK for breakfast and lunch, but dinner must be served with linen and china or stoneware. Lunch must include veggie pasta salad, no mayonnaise.
Meat Loaf: The promoter “acknowledges that it is promoting a worldwide ‘superstar’ artist and that each and every element of such promotion, production, and other arrangements shall be absolutely first-class in nature and commensurate with the stature of a ‘superstar’ in the entertainment industry.” This included some of the most specific menu instructions I found among the riders, right down to a bowl of fruit not to include strawberries, and two boxes of Cracker Jack.
The quintessential tour rider, however, is the one for Kansas for 1998. It starts by specifying who’s in the band, and that the group is not to be promoted as “the original Kansas” or any such variation. (It had been over 10 years since the band’s last hit, so one might be able to understand a promoter’s temptation.) Among the band’s other requests: “articulate young female volunteer for merchandise sales”; dinner entrees to include chicken or fish on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, roast beef or steak on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and turkey with all the trimmings on Sundays; and the customary wide variety of beverages for the dressing room on show night, with one interesting addition: “one (1) quart prune juice.”
A rock-and-roll soul never grows old. A rock-and-roller’s body, however, is something else again.