Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Van Halen and brown M&Ms

Back in the 1980s, the performance contract for the classic rock group Van Halen contained Article 126. Among a list of requirements and procedures demanded by Van Halen, Article 126 said,

“There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

I remember hearing about Article 126 years ago-- and thought that it was a perfect example of a bunch of self-absorbed, self-important rock stars. After all, it seemed like a pretty frivolous demand.

I don't think that any more.

Van Halen played dozens of concerts each year. Each concert required very specific technical details: electrical capacity, sound and light settings... 18 truckloads of equipment needed to be set-up perfectly because the group wanted to be sure that every part of the show ran smoothly.

So, why the M&Ms? When David Lee Roth arrived at the concert site, he would check the M&Ms. If all the brown ones had been removed, he could be confident that the people in charge of the venue read the contract had paid attention to all the details. If there were no M&Ms at all... or if there were some brown ones in the mix, he knew that they probably missed other important details in the set-up.

I have gone from thinking that David Lee Roth was something of a jerk to appreciating his savvy and oversight of details. I am still not a fan of the music style, but I am impressed with the thinking. (I am sure that David will be relieved to know that my opinion of him changed on this. :) )

From In Other Words newsletter April 2010, Issue 3, citing FastCompany March 2010, p.36.

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