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David Lee Roth Explains Van Halen’s ‘No Brown M&M’s’ Rule

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Back in the 1980s, Van Halen were known for demanding lots of M&M’s be provided backstage at their concerts — but insisting the brown ones be removed. Many people assumed it was a weird superstition or just your standard, run-of-the-mill rock star ridiculousness, but David Lee Roth says there was actually a very good reason behind it.

For the uninitiated, concert riders are addendums artists often include with standard performance contracts, and they can cover everything from the temperature within the venue to the lighting set-up to — yes — the food and drinks provided in dressing rooms.

Van Halen’s infamous rider made it clear that while the band wanted a bunch of big bowls of M&M’s, concert promoters would be forced to forfeit their earnings if a single brown candy was found.

And all these years later, Roth has finally gone on the record to explain the bizarre provision.

It was actually a test, he says. Since Van Halen stage shows were elaborate productions with 850 lights alone, their contracts included lengthy, complex instructions — and the brown M&M requirement was buried in there at random. If the stipulation was ignored, that meant the promoter hadn’t thoroughly read the band’s contract, which foretold possibly dangerous problems with the stage set-up.

So there you have it, kids. It was all about safety. (And yeah, maybe some rock star ridiculousness thrown in for good measure.)

Watch David Lee Roth Tell the Brown M&M’s Story

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