Listening to Desert Island Discs on radio this morning, I was startled to hear impresario Harvey Goldsmith discussing the ‘riders’ – or additional contractual requests – demanded by some of his pop artists and their entourages to make their lives more pleasant on tour. He said his view was that a happy crew made happy artists, and happy artists gave good concerts, so he was always ready to indulge their requests, even coming up with alternatives should the original request prove unattainable.
Kirsty Young asked him if it was true that one group demanded a mud-wrestling ring backstage, complete with two mud-wrestling contestants for their amusement. ‘Four’, said Goldsmith poker-faced. ‘Four?’ ‘Four mud-wrestling contestants’, he said. Was it true that Italian tenor Pavarotti demanded a special Parma ham-slicing machine in his dressing-room? Goldsmith couldn’t remember precisely, but confirmed that Pavarotti used to travel with a whole suitcase full of Italian food.
Even in the classical world there are stories of opera singers and concerto soloists who demanded that their dressing-rooms be decorated in a certain way, with furniture to match, and certain kinds of food available at all hours of the day. South-facing views, hotel suites with vintage wines, first-class air travel for any ‘friend’ whom the artist suddenly wishes to have near him or her. I know of a violinist whose contract states that he must never be required to leave his hotel before mid-morning.
All this makes me feel that I have been incredibly naïve. ‘Could I possibly have a sandwich between rehearsal and concert?’, I hear myself saying, hungry at the end of a long day which began with a very early cheap flight. This is not to forget or decry the voluntary efforts made by some very kind people to make sure that we are well looked after, sometimes even inviting us into their own homes. But the whole world of first class travel and ‘luxury clauses’ is entirely outside my experience.