Nobody excepted The Rolling Stones to make it to 40 years. Bands didn’t last as long back in the 1960s, and before The Beatles came around, groups rarely lasted for more than a couple of years. But the Stones beat out their competition and stuck around for four decades by the time the new millennium struck. When the group’s 40th anniversary rolled around in 2002, the Stones embarked on the ’40 Licks’ tour to celebrate.
To commemorate the milestone tour, the band put together the Tip of the Tongue to provide an inside look into what went into making the tour happen. Despite its fairly obvious sanding down of the rougher edges that marked the Stones’ relationships, specifically the interactions between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the documentary is still a fascinating portrait into a band that was still very much one of the biggest bands in the world.
One of the most notable plot points involves Ronnie Wood‘s sobriety, which he had recently achieved at the outset of the tour’s rehearsals. Sadly, Wood fell back off the wagon in the subsequent years, not achieving full sobriety until 2011. Still, Wood is as gregarious and fun-loving as ever, whether its doodling sketches in the control room or keeping the energy light between the band members.
Charlie Watts is his usual stern self, flashing a wry smile or a bemused look every once in a while. The documentary highlights how much Watts was involved in the backstage works as the Stones, helping design stage setups and lighting designs. One of the most comical scenes involving Watts happens right from the start of the doc, where all the band members fly over Manhattan in a blimp. Watts, clearly afraid of heights, looks like he’s about the hurl at any moment and seems genuinely relieved to be off. It’s a rare look inside the usually unflappable drummer.
What the documentary really seems interested in, however, is the dynamic between Jagger and Richards. Jagger describes himself as gregarious and Richards as more inward-looking, while Richards calls Jagger his “wife” and does his best to describe the delicate marriage of the two. Richards’ casual nature and advocacy for feel above all else is in stark contrast to Jagger’s tight leadership; as Watts puts it: “Keith brings lots of emotion, and Mick brings direction”.
Part of the tour involved doing shows at multiple different sizes, a precedent that would follow on the ‘A Bigger Band’ tour. That involved doing a surprise show at the Palais Royale in Toronto, Canada. The venue only held 1,000 people and was a secret until right before the band went on. The secret club shows could continue to as the band continued to tour throughout the years.
Ultimately, the Tip of the Tongue documentary is an easy watch that provides plenty of strange and wonderful insights into the inner workings of the band. Whether it’s getting to see Jagger warm up at home or Keith casually ordering a screwdriver on their private plane, it’s a comfortable and relatively calm version of the Stones as their about to enter their golden years. Whoever’s in charge of the Stones’ archives should probably go back in and cut out Mick Jagger saying he like Matt Lauer, though. Not everything can age well.