Brown M&M’s

Main Piece: There’s another great one I love around Van Halen. Most people know this one or some version of this one but they don’t know the true story. It’s about the brown M&M’s in their rider. Most people tell the story to show that Van Halen and rock stars are divas. Actually, Van Halen put a clause in their rider that there had to be a bowl of M&M’s in their dressing room but it could only be brown M&M’s because of safety. Van Halen had this incredibly complicated setup for their show. And if any part of a stage’s setup is wrong people can die. So, Van Halen put this clause in their about M&M’s in as a test to see how carefully and how thoroughly each concert organizer had followed the setup instructions. The instant they walked into the dressing room it was incredibly obvious. If there was a giant bowl of only brown M&M’s then they knew the instructions probably had been read and followed pretty carefully. If there wasn’t a giant bowl of only brown M&M’s then the instructions hadn’t be followed to the letter and they needed to check everything over again. Part of what I love about this story is that we’re so used to hearing about rockstar diva behavior and this is supposedly a famous example but actually it’s about good safety practices. I love that.

Background Information: This piece was performed by James Burnett, my brother. James has been playing music for most of his life and it is his great passion.

Context of the Performance: The story was performed in person in James’ room in our house.

My Thoughts on the Piece: This story was fascinating to me. It was really interesting that a true event that was about safety was misunderstood and reinterpreted by people to be about being a diva. People retwist these stories to serve their agendas, probably unconsciously. The idea of rockstars as responsible and safety conscious just doesn’t fit our prejudices. The idea of rockstars as divas with unreasonable and difficult demands does. So fascinating!