Tour Riders, The Stuff Of Legends
There was a time when being a star meant getting away with whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. Tales of trashing hotel rooms just for fun, drinking, smoking, and snorting everything in sight.
But as times have changed and attitudes toward abuse of substances and cleaning crews alike have shifted, there simply aren’t too many extreme indulgences that your typical rock star or pop diva can get away with anymore. Throw a TV out a window? Someone on the maintenance crew tweets about it and there’s a hashtag calling you an asshole before you even end up on TMZ. So what is a poor rock star to do? If your fans won’t let you get away with shenanigans, where do you turn?
Enter the tour rider. On its face, a tour rider is a pretty boring document. It sets the terms of the night of the performance for the star and the venue. Things like speaker and lighting details, what security is required, how many dressing rooms and what should be in them, and meal details are the usual type of things covered in an artist’s rider. But somewhere along the way, artists began using the rider to make requests beyond these mundane details. Whether it’s socks and underwear, wanting everything in your dressing room to be the same colour, or demanding a specific brand of bottled water served at a specific temperature out of specific drinkware, the tour rider is the last great hope for stars to get themselves treated like royalty.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are a legendary band of cranks and oddballs, so it's no surprise that their rider is full of persnickety requests and strange asides. First of all, perhaps to ensure their legendary status doesn't take a hit, they insist that no attendance figures can be reported anywhere except for in the event of a sold-out show, in which case attendance figures absolutely must be reported to anyone who will listen. Pretty smart, if you ask me. In a note about including recycling bins, they give thanks not just from The Beach Boys, but from the planet itself. Giving a voice to the voiceless! I like it. But then they request a whopping 48 large bath towels (just how many Beach Boys are there these days, anyway?). Maybe they're for the beach party later on? Beats me, but I'm guessing Mother Earth isn't too keen on the amount of water those towels take to launder.
Their "munchies" requests are pretty standard, though they get a little specific when it comes to the other supplies. Only VIVA brand paper towels will do, and they insist on Marlboro Lights in a soft pack with a child-safety-free lighter that absolutely cannot be green. A few cans of Copenhagen Long Cut dip that are no more than one week old round out the list.
In an effort to not appear like they belong simply to the grandpa set, they stipulate that no form of advertising, from posters and flyers to inflatables and beer "coolies" include the word "OLDIES." However, this attempt at seeming young is almost negated by the request for a bag of Werther's Originals and a 50-foot roll of Saran Wrap, presumably for leftovers, or perhaps to cover the furniture. As always, The Beach Boys remain an exercise in dualities.
Mary J Blige
A clean and carpeted dressing room isn't such a strange request, nor is a private bathroom. But Mary J. Blige takes it a step farther when she adds that the toilet seat must be brand new. That's a new toilet seat for every tour stop! I wonder if the venues are allowed to leave the toilet seat on once she leaves, or if she has it destroyed once it's seen it's last use by her. Things get a little specific when it comes to hotel accommodations as well, where Blige, who up until this rider leaked checked in under the pseudonym Mrs. Jefferson, insists she not appear on any room number list, and that her room be in the most quiet area, on a non-smoking floor, and not on the same floor as the rest of her crew or touring party. The demand for quiet also includes that Blige be notified of any construction going on near the hotel, and that the housekeeping staff honor the "Do Not Disturb" signs, a point made with not one, but 26 exclamation points. They are not to knock to verify occupancy, or even vacuum nearby rooms, even though such noise might be drowned out by the two humidifiers also requested. Listen, there's a reason singers like Blige are referred to as divas, right?
The Godfather of Soul knew how to travel in style. His rider reads, “Mr. James Brown and Entourage MUST stay in a (5) FIVE-STAR HOTEL. One two-bedroom Presidential Suite, two Junior Suites, one Deluxe Single. They will need one stretch limousine, 186-inches long, current year model; one van for luggage."
His band and singers, however, must stay in a four-star hotel. Dancers must stay in a separate four-star establishment, where the band can't mingle with them. At the gig, James needs a well-appointed dressing room with two full-length mirrors, another makeup mirror with lights, two garment racks, a circulating fan, an ironing board with a steam iron, a hooded hair dryer, and an oxygen tank. Oh, one more thing—a separate room nearby “provided for James Brown's wardrobe mistress." An oxygen tank and a mistress—“I feel good," indeed.
One would expect His Royal Purple Badness to have some strange backstage demands, and Prince does not disappoint. “A DOCTOR must be available every Show Day at 6:00 PM." Said Dr. must be prepared to administer B-12 shots on demand. In addition to the Doc, Prince needs “500 pounds of ice."
No booze backstage, but they do need six-dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme or Dunkin', as well as “3 DOZEN ASSORTED PASTRIES FROM A REAL BAKERY." Prince also needs Yogi cocoa tea, jasmine and lavender candles, and tables “at all entry points (of meeting room) for collection of Gifts and Flowers."
You know a band has been around a long time when its rider requires the provision of three oxygen tanks and three masks. That's one requirement on the AC/DC 2008 tour rider, excerpts of which you'll find below. The band's alcohol requirement consists of exactly one case of Heineken in bottles, though the rider notes, in bold letters, "no beer in dressing room prior to show." However, Angus Young & Co. are presumably allowed to enjoy that small selection of "fun size" chocolate bars before a concert. Ditto that tasty assortment of imported cheese and crackers (of course, "English cheeses and water crackers preferred")
Guns 'n' Roses
According to Blic Online, Guns'n'Roses rider for the band's September 23 performance in Belgrade, Serbia includes singer Axl Rose's request for the his dressing room to all black and decorated with fresh roses. He has also reportedly asked to have champagne, vodka, tequila, red wine and beer available in the room.
Axl's dressing room must include dark shades while the interior furnishing has to include a bed, a sofa, a coffee table, six lamps and a rug. To break the dominant dark tones, Axl has insisted that the band's private quarters be decorated with fresh roses — 18 of red and white each.
The Blic Online report continues, "The rider precisely states what the organizers need to provide when it comes to catering, and the list includes black napkins, a blender, a juice maker, a tea kettle, paper tissues, 18 glasses for wine and champagne, 15 glasses for stiff drinks, 40 paper glasses, six cutlery sets, two bottle openers and corkscrews, as well as one large and two smaller bread knives. As for food, and especially drinks, the requirements are even more precise, with Axl demanding salt and pepper mills, olive oil, Balsamico vinegar, soy sauce, two bear-shaped tubes of honey, exact brands of white, red wine and vodka, Patron Anejo tequila and Jose Cuervo mixed cocktail drink. Moreover, the organizers will need to come up with six bottles of Lucky Budha beer and as many bottles of Grolsch and Checkvar beers. As for non-alcoholic drinks, the rider includes Red Bull, Coca-Cola, 7 Up, a carton of orange juice, as well as Pellegrino mineral water and Smart Water. In addition to fresh fruit — bananas, apples, strawberries, raspberries, water melons, mangos and grapefruits — the band will have at its disposal carrot, celery, cucumbers, various kinds of crackers, seven kinds of cheese, strawberry jam, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, white bread, while the rockers will enjoy a dinner with the menu comprising roast chicken, two portions of medium rare filet mignon, Cesar salad, four cheeseburgers and a spinach salad."
The Zoo TV tour is full of no surprises, apparently the more recent riders are full of protein shakes and salads which also no surprise.
This is far from finished list, when I stumble across more craziness I'll add them.