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The Magic Box was a brown crate adorned with mystical and cosmic symbols, into which audience members placed song requests which, if drawn, NRBQ would attempt to play, with varying degrees of success. Over time, use of the box evolved into a mini-ritual, with its own set of rules.
1) The band would announce it was time for the Magic Box. (Usually after one or more teases)
2) Audience members would put their suggestions on little pieces of paper and add them to the box.
3) The band might vamp while this was going on--at least one live recording exists where they played "Bugler's Holiday" while the box submissions were coming in.
4) Only written requests would be entertained; shouted requests would be ignored or derided at the band's option.
5) Eventually, an alarm buzzer would sound, signalling the end of the request submission period. If the band members were in a particularly charitable mood, they might allow a few last submissions past the deadline.
6) A band member (almost always Tommy) would blindly select one piece of paper from the box.
7) Tommy would usually play one of several pre-recorded fanfares.
8) If someone tried to "hog the pile" by including more than one request on a single slip, the slip would be rejected and another selection made.
9) Tommy would announce the winning selection.
10) As many of the song requests were perverse, the audience would usually groan at this point.
11) The band would confer, they sometimes played at getting out of it, but ultimately were compelled to attempt to play each request, however putrid.
12) Especially when the Whole Wheats were present, the band would often play their own "success" fanfare after finishing ther attempt.
13) Depending on audience response and band mood, one or more additional requests might be selected.
The box was a regular feature of shows in the 1980s, was eventually retired, and occasionally has been revived on special rare nights.