Not-so-easy-riders: bands' demands when they're on tour astound

The Foo Fighters and Morrissey are continuing in a grand tradition of outrageous music riders.

The band Foo Fighters poses for a photograph in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
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One of the funniest scenes in the classic music mockumentary Spinal Tap occurs backstage before a show. The lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel complains to the band manager about some of the food. Labelling the backstage buffet " a catastrophe", Tufnel rails against the "miniature bread" on offer and the inconsistently stuffed olives.

"It does disturb me, but I'll rise above it; I'm a professional," he says magnanimously. The 1984 movie was making a mockery of the growing list of bizarre tour riders - a list of an artist's backstage demands - that prevailed on the rock scene at the time.

For instance, Queen had demanded a mud-wrestling ring outside their dressing room for post-show entertainment. The shock rocker Alice Cooper asked for an extra hotel suite and for it to be extremely warm, to accommodate a pet python that occasionally joined him on tour. In 2001, Iggy Pop wanted seven dwarves at a gig in Scotland. Dionne Warwick's distaste for limousines meant that a station wagon had to be on call to ferry her to and from a venue.

Last week, the Foo Fighters and Morrissey made headlines for their unusual demands before their forthcoming tours, ensuring such excesses remain a staple of the music scene.

In preparation for their 2011 world tour, the Foo Fighters released a colourful dossier listing their culinary demands while on the road. The hilarious list - which comes complete with illustrations and a colouring book - specifies that no roast beef be served unless "you have slaughtered it yourself", and that a DVD copy of the 2004 romantic weepy The Notebook be available for viewing.

Morrissey's demand was more direct: venues must stop serving meat during the night of the former Smiths frontman's performance.

While the Foo Fighters' document had its tongue firmly in cheek (we wait to see if their demands will be met), the Meat is Murder crooner has previous form in punishing promoters for unfulfilled demands.

In 2009 he walked off stage during his headlining slot at the Coachella Festival in California after reportedly smelling "burning flesh".

At least, though, Morrissey's demands are a matter of principle, in line with his consistent animal rights activism. Other artists' outrageous riders are designed to generate tour publicity, to cement an existing public image or to ingeniously ensure promoters are reading the more serious safety issues included in the contract. The tour rider has also become a way for fans to glean surprising and sometimes unflattering insights into their favourite performers.

Jennifer Lopez has, in the past, reportedly demanded that the tables, chairs, couches and candles in her dressing room all be white, bottles of Evian water at room temperature, no tomato, apple and grape juices in the vicinity, yellow roses with red trim, and a supply of Balance Bars in the Honey Peanut variety.

All of this might have been reasonable before a stadium performance. But the list, leaked to the website Smoking Gun, was prior to her arrival to record her part in a 2001 charity single.

Riders have also exposed a hidden sensitivity to be found in some of today's macho rappers, with LL Cool J requesting 24 long-stem dethorned roses. Meanwhile, the beefy 50 Cent can't stand the odour of meat before a performance so he has insisted that no cooked flesh is near him at any time backstage. Who'd have thought Fiddy would have so much in common with Morrissey?

The soul diva Aretha Franklin has demanded $25,000 (Dh91,800) upfront in cash before her arrival at a venue and that any five-star hotel suite she stays in must not be higher than the fifth floor.

The most famous tour rider request, however, surfaced during Van Halen's 1982 world tour. The 53-page document contained the legendary M&M clause stipulating that a bowl of the chocolates be made available - with the brown ones removed. According to the lead singer David Lee Roth, the clause was placed in the "technical" section of the rider as a way to gauge the promoter's diligence. If the M&M bowl was missing or it contained brown chocolates, the band would suspect the promoter had not read the safety requirements also included in the technical section. The band would then have the right to cancel the show with their fees paid in full.

The more recent demands by the Foo Fighters and Morrissey may be more direct, but they continue the rider's long tradition of entertaining - sometimes more than the actual performance.