The DEW Line of Rock and Roll: Brown M&Ms

The DEW Line was a system of RADAR installations in north Canada built by the US in the late-50s and operated by Canada.  It's purpose was to provide an early warning in the event the USSR launched a bomber attack on the US.

DEW Lines also have their place in large operations and projects such as Rock Concerts.   While they don't draw this analogy to military installations, Fast Company recently published and article about how to spot problems before they become big ones.  There are some interesting examples, but my favorite is the one about Van Halen.

In the hey-day of hair bands, Van Halen put on an incredible show.  It was filled with effects and required careful coordination of the band's crew and the arena's staff.

According to the article:

 Van Halen did dozens of shows every year, and at each venue, the band would show up with nine 18-wheelers full of gear. Because of the technical complexity, the band's standard contract with venues was thick and convoluted -- Roth, in his inimitable way, said in his autobiography that it read "like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages." A typical "article" in the contract might say, "There will be 15 amperage voltage sockets at 20-foot spaces, evenly, providing 19 amperes."

Van Halen buried a special clause in the middle of the contract. It was called Article 126. It read, "There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation." So when Roth would arrive at a new venue, he'd walk backstage and glance at the M&M bowl. If he saw a brown M&M, he'd demand a line check of the entire production. "Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error," he wrote. "They didn't read the contract.... Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show."

... More

A single brown M&M may not be an extensive cold weather RADAR purpose, but it would alert Roth that there were likely other problems -- that were more important than candy -- that needed to be addressed.

What are the brown M&Ms in your work?

1 comment:

Jon Clarke said...

Thanks for explaining there was a reason for the famous no brown M&Ms story, even if it was in retrospect.