Imagine a world in which Van Halen never submitted a touring rider banishing all brown M&Ms from their dressing rooms. What threadbare anecdotes would lazy writers point to when trying to illustrate the abject ridiculousness of musicians’ insane (and very often oddly reasonable) backstage demands? And would society have ever decided en masse to perpetually mock them? No one can say for certain, but the custom continues apace. Using the federal Freedom of Information Act, DNAinfo Chicago managed to get its hands on the lists of requests made by those acts performing at the city’s Taste Of Chicago festival next month. And wouldn’t you know it, two of the biggest names have some rather silly-sounding requirements written into their contracts, particularly concerning the existence of moisture-absorbent linens.
In addition to their $120,000 performance fee, Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots—who can be seen nightly on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon—specifically request “Twenty (20) NEW BLACK hand towels.” Why 20? Why black? Why knows?! Maybe they’ll be needed to clean up the obligatory jar of honey or the “Twelve (12) bottles of Vitamin Water (assorted).”
Even more ridiculous are the requests from British post-punk musician Billy Idol. When the “Rebel Yell” singer walks into his furnished dressing room with “ambiance appreciated” after collecting his $100,000 performance fee, he wants to find “10 clean-washed bath towels and natural bar soap.” Take note, though, “clean-washed” does not mean “store-bought.” As the rider stipulates in italics: “Absolutely no new-unwashed towels anywhere please!” Do not let Mr. Idol see a price tag on one of his 10 bath towels or he will flip shit (presumably)!
For what it’s worth, influential ‘50s-era R&B group the Isley Brothers also had a few requests, but they were shot down in negotiations. DNAinfo explains that they were “struck due to food and refreshments already being served in common catering room.” But how will they clean their hands after eating?