|The design of legal products
The legendary rock ’n’ roll frippery: provide me with M&Ms but remove the brown ones, has been pitched as a story of petulant excess.
Van Halen would tour with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks of equipment. The your average bunch of rockers at the time had one rusty Commer Van with a dodgy alternator [Can confirm. — Ed.]. The stage rig weighed “like the business end of a 747”, and Van Halen suffered a number of technical errors — girders collapsed, or the flooring sunk in, or the doors weren’t big enough even to get the gear in in the first place.
Thus, their technical contract rider [a “service level agreement” to you and me. — Ed] read like a phone book [A big book with literally hundreds of thousands of “telephone numbers” in it — Ed.] because there was so much equipment, and so many people needed to make it function. For example: “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing.
Just as a test, in Article 126, in the middle of nowhere, was this: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”
This was a test to see how seriously the promoters were taking show preparations. If they missed this, what else had they missed? As David Lee Roth observed, “So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.”