17 backstage riders where the artists just took it way too far
For many artists, the tour rider is a sign that they’ve finally made it as a band. No longer do they have to pay for their own drinks and setup the amps themselves, now they can demand promoters place bottles of Cristal and a howler monkey in their dressing room.
Rock mythology is filled with bizarre stories of stars making obscure, confusing, outright insane requests from managers, agents, and promoters. Stories like Van Halen and the incident with the brown M&Ms have now become some of the most famous and iconic in the rock and roll canon.
In order to explore the weird and often hilarious world of riders, we’ve put together a list of some of our personal favourites, all of which are actually even more bizarre than the Jack White rider that made headlines a few years back.
Iggy Pop/The Stooges
This might just be the funniest rider ever to be placed forcefully into a promoter’s hands. The Godfather of Punk not only requests seven dwarves, along with a brand of cigarettes he doesn’t like so he can throw it into the bin, he also required a Bob Hope impersonator, Grolsch beer and 2 bottles of red wine, preferably “something we’ve heard of but still can’t pronounce”.
The Beach Boys
The legendary rockers request 48 large bath towels (presumably for all the swimming they do backstage), Marlboro Lights in a soft pack with a child-safety-free lighter that absolutely cannot be green, Werther’s Originals, and a 50-foot roll of Saran Wrap, presumably to lay down on the floor for the ritual murder that precedes each Beach Boys show.
The super-producers is notorious for the demands he makes of his promoters. On one Australian tour he demanded that his entourage of 26 people were to be entertained in his dressing room by belly dancers while they drank through 20 crates of Grey Goose vodka, 15 magnums of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque champagne, and to top it off, 20 crates of Bacardi rum.
Marilyn Manson requests two items: Haribo brand gummy bears and a bald-headed, toothless hooker. This one is not the least bit surprising, considering the fact that everyone knows bald-headed, toothless hookers absolutely love Haribo brand gummy bears.
Considering deadmau5 is a DJ and a bit of a curmudgeon, he doesn’t really have any bandmates to party with or, we speculate, a huge entourage. That might explain why he requests “one inflatable animal of at least 5 feet in height and fully inflated” – he needs a dressing room buddy.
As The Smiths began what would be their final ever tour around the UK to an increasingly rabid following, Morrissey took to demanding that a ‘young sapling no less than four feet but no higher than six feet’ be placed in his dressing room at each show. We’re not sure if he wanted a tree or a young child, either way this is weird.
Amongst Madge’s many outrageous requests over the years, one of our faves is her insistence that all the seats on her toilets must not just be hygienically clean, but they must also be brand new so her arse is the first to ever have sat on them. We assume those Madonna-christened seats are then promptly flogged on eBay.
The original and the best, Van Halen legendarily requested a bowl of M&Ms with ‘all the brown ones taken out’. Although this has come to epitomise outrageous rider demands, it was placed there by the band for good reason – they had a complex technical stage setup and they wanted to check the promoter was paying close attention to the stage specifications. Well, that’s their side of the story anyway…
Never far from our thoughts when we cast our minds to outrageous rock n’ roll behaviour, The Godfather of Soul once requested “two girls under the age of 21 and a ladies’ hair dryer”. While the ladies’ hair dryer is more or less self-explanatory, we would like to know where one find two random ladies under 21 to place in James Brown’s dressing room.
Katy Perry is really strict about her drivers. Like, really strict. In addition to barring them from speaking to her or pretty much anyone else, they must keep their eyes on the road at all times, let security handle such tasks as opening doors and handling luggage, and stay behind the steering wheel at all times. Her rider also includes instructions about how fast to drive, which lane to stay in, and where to park.
Let’s hope promoters paid careful attention to his requested plant heights, with the rider stipulating “nineteen leafy 6ft plants. Four leafy 4ft plants. Vegetarian catering (including no meat by-products)”. According to rock legend (that we may or may not have made up), McCartney will refuse to take the stage if a plant exceeds its required height.
We’re still scratching our heads over this one, because it’s the last thing you’d expect of a hell-raising, groupie-shagging band of untameable animals like Led Zeppelin, but the rock legends apparently requested an iron and an ironing board. While this may be to iron their clothes, it could just as easily have been to straighten their flowing locks.
His Purpleness never liked people getting their hands on his backstage food, it would appear. On his 2004 Musicology tour, his rider dictated “All items in dressing room must be covered by clear plastic wrap until uncovered by main artist. This is absolutely necessary.” We probably wouldn’t like it if someone was pawing through our food before we got there either.
Queen Diva Mariah Carey once sent an estimated 20 assistants to redecorate toilets ensuring all toilet paper was a certain shade of pink before an in-store signing. We kind of understand this one. We’d lose our shit too if the toilet paper was the wrong shade of pink at one of our in-store signings.
It’s probably no real surprise that the band’s rider demands have included items as diverse as a schedule for local Alcoholics’ Anonymous meetings, a sub-machine gun, and a twelve-foot-long boa constrictor. Considering this appears to have been their post-sobriety rider, we’d hate to see what they requested in their wild days.
Hank Williams III
Ol’ Hank III has demanded a monkey, a half-gallon of milk, squeezable mustard and ketchup, cereal, Oreos, and a great white shark! Now, we’re not sure if all of these were required for the same backstage project that Hank seemingly has going on, but if they are, we need to see that YouTube video.
One of the world’s most infamous thrash metal bands actually have a rider that could rival Iggy Pop’s. In addition to requesting 100 snow-white goats for slaughter by a Halal butcher, as well as “blood-proof” umbrellas so they don’t get any blood on them, they also demand yoga ball chairs, a Lite-Brite for each band member, ten cases of Gogurt, and “those markers that smell like cool stuff”.
The article was originally published on Tone Deaf