What becomes a legend most? What becomes a legend most often? Usually something outrageous. It helps to make a dent in the public's awareness if you really want to transcend the ordinary. To be a groundbreaker, it would seem, you need to break some ground. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, the rock group known as Van Halen was just that. They were a breath of fresh air in an otherwise moribund hard rock world. Named after the brothers Van Halen on guitar and drums, they were accompanied by Michael Anthony on bass and everybody's favorite cartoon frontman, David Lee Roth. Together they stormed out of the clubs of Los Angeles and sold seventeen million copies of their first album. They truly were The Monsters of Rock.
And not just because of their sales. The boys in the band garnered a pretty hefty reputation for partying as hard as they rocked. In 1984, MTV held a "Lost Weekend with Van Halen" contest. A million entries were received, but there could be only one winner. Twenty year old Kurt Jefferis, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania was that lucky guy. Kurt and a friend went off into the heart of darkness in the back of a limousine. His tale of excess an woe gives us a window into the world of what it must have been like to live the life twenty-four/seven. And he and his buddy only managed to hang out with the band for two days. Apparently, people really do win on MTV.
That was sort of the high water mark of Van Halenia. Other louder, faster bands came along with more hairspray and more attitude, but none of them quite matched the bombast and chicanery of Van Halen. To wit: When on the road, the band had a sixty-three page contractual rider that gave promoters specific directions on the care and feeding of Eddie, Alex, Michael and Dave. The most infamous portion of which was the strict prohibition against brown M&Ms. This was seen, especially at the time, as the height of snottiness. Why couldn't these brats pick out the offending candies, or better yet, just get over themselves and eat what was put in front of them?
Well, it seems, thirty years later, that the guys were actually more clever than you might expect. Travelling with all that gear, lights, pyrotechnics, instruments and assorted other equipment, it was an easy way to check to see if the venue had taken the necessary care with all the above. If there were brown M&Ms in the bowl, they probably hadn't done what they needed to do with the sound system, or the stage. It was a way to check up on the promoters. Drunk? Probably. Crazy? Like a fox.