The Most Ridiculous Rider Requests In Music History
Here are some of the strangest ways our favourite artists stay entertained backstage.
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The next time you’re standing at a concert, waiting for the headliner to hurry up and get onstage, try not to imagine the luxury happening behind the scenes. Once you’ve seen a few artist riders – the list of very detailed demands musicians are renowned for — it’s no surprise that shows don’t start on time. Would you hurry out of a dressing room laden with all your favourite things?
While organic fruit plates and champagne are rider staples, some artists (usually the biggest ones) get outlandish with their requests. These mega-stars might only be in the venue one night, but apparently, it’s fun to make a promoter sweat.
Music history is filled with stories of specific and often ridiculous demands, from M&Ms with the brown ones removed to an air-conditioned running track in the desert. Here are some of the strangest ways our favourite artists stay entertained backstage.
Van Halen’s Legendary No Brown M&Ms Rule
Van Halen’s rider request for M&Ms with all the brown ones removed is probably the best-known tour rider clause in rock history. According to vocalist David Lee Roth, the band’s 1980s arena tour demand wasn’t a case of “simple rock star misdemeanour excess”.
As Roth tells it, the M&Ms clause was a test: if the promoter got that tiny detail right, the band would know its complex technical rider was also followed to the letter.
Everything On Iggy And The Stooges’ 28-Page Rider
Here’s another rock yarn up there with Van Halen’s aversion to brown M&Ms. The Smoking Gun, an unofficial hub for leaked rider requests, called Iggy Pop and The Stooges’ madcap document “the single most entertaining concert rider” they’d ever seen.
The rider, which went through an even wilder revision, was authored by Iggy Pop’s road manager Jos Grain. To inject some life into a usually boring list, Grain added requests for little people dressed as the characters from Walt Disney’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, a copy of USA Today with “a story about morbidly obese people in it”, and other tongue-in-cheek oddities. Grain’s work inspired the Foo Fighters to write their own comedic rider.
“Grace Jones Does Her Own Shucking”
There are certainly more ridiculous riders than the one belonging to supreme diva Grace Jones, but one of her requests is straight-up perfection.
Jones published the rider in her 2015 book I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, and it’s an honest snapshot of the superstar lifestyle. In addition to specific bottles of wine and champagne, Jones was fond of requesting two dozen unopened oysters and an oyster knife. As the rider coolly explained, “Grace does her own shucking.” Even more reason to love her.
Katy Perry’s Carnation Horror
On her 2011 rider, hitmaker Katy Perry voiced very particular flower needs. According to the document published by The Smoking Gun, Perry would abide “white and purple hydrangeas, pink and white roses and peonies” in her dressing room, but “ABSOLUTELY NO CARNATIONS”.
It’s unclear what sparked the singer’s intense hostility, but we hope those backstage decorators took note.
Kanye’s Boozy Slushie Machines
If there’s anyone you’d expect to have a mind-boggling rider, it’s Kanye West. Surprisingly, though, the rap firebrand keeps his requests (relatively) low-key.
On 2016’s Saint Pablo tour, Kanye did slip in one slightly ridiculous but mostly inspired requirement at each show: alcoholic slushie machines. And not just any old flavours, either. ‘Ye needed frozen Hennessy and Coke and frozen Grey Goose and Lemonade. That’s how you look after your backstage guests.
Steve Aoki’s Inflatable Boat
Back in 2012, Steve Aoki’s rider leaked online, with highlights including a director’s chair in view of the stage, two security guards to escort him to the signing booth and six pairs of men’s underwear. The rider also included items most DJs don’t need, like an inflatable boat for riding the crowd and two cakes with “soft icing” to throw at fans.
Naturally, the internet had a lot of fun picking apart Aoki’s needs. The EDM showman responded with good humour, writing on his blog: “Two bottles of Cristal is definitely a ballin’ move. Do I need it? No, but if I can get it… sweet!”
Mariah Carey’s All-over Drapes
You’d be disappointed if Mariah Carey had a dull rider, right? The singer has been rumoured to request 20 white kittens and 100 white doves and vitamin water for her dogs, but her leaked 2010 rider doesn’t quite go that far.
The official document still has some fun quirks, like drapes around the perimeter of every room and exactly eight tall, leafy plants. Once upon a time Mariah also requested bendy straws for drinking champagne, which is ridiculous but also pretty great.
Madonna’s Diva Demands
You don’t earn the title of Queen of Pop without making some royal demands. Madonna’s infamous riders have (allegedly) included a brand-new toilet seat at every venue, white and pink roses with their stems cut to exactly six inches and, weirdest of all, 20 international phone lines in her dressing room. She’s also said to tour with a huge entourage that needs looking after.
Does Madonna still have that kind of clout? Doubtful, but it’s fun to imagine setting up 20 phone lines in the age of Skype.
Mick Jagger’s Air-Conditioned Running Track
One of the most audacious rider requests in recent memory was quietly revealed in a New Yorker profile on Coachella mastermind Paul Tollett.
In 2016, Tollett also staged the inaugural Desert Trip festival at Coachella’s home in Indio, California, securing rock gods The Rolling Stones as a headliner. (Not the headliner, mind you: the band shared equal billing with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who.)
According to the New Yorker, each act was allocated an acre of land backstage for friends and family, with The Stones’ area including a 36-metre-long air-conditioned running track for frontman Mick Jagger. With logistics that complex, it’s no wonder Desert Trip didn’t return in 2017.
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