The Who’s early managers, who guided them from cult Mod status to all-conquering rock superstars, were an unlikely pairing. Yet Kit Lambert, upper class son of classical composer and conductor Constant Lambert, and Chris Stamp, working class son of a stoker on the boats from Plaistow, made a complimentary and formidable team.
Working in the lower reaches of the film industry they shared a passion to make their own movie and settled upon finding a new pop group to centre their idea. When Lambert passed a row of scooters outside the Railway Tavern, popped his head in and witnessed both the High Numbers and their audience, he’d found what they were after. As Chris Stamp explains in James D. Cooper’s directorial debut documentary, Lambert and Stamp, they didn’t know what they wanted, more what they didn’t want, and misfits Townshend, Daltrey, Moon and Entwistle defied the accepted conventions of the time in their look, sound and attitude. It began as a perfect marriage.
They made a terrific partnership with the band, now reverting back to their previous Who moniker, willing to join in with any excitable plan their new backers concocted, even if their original film idea gently faded into the background as they became managers instead. Kit Lambert's encouraging and influencing helped bolster Pete Townshend's creative song writing in a way his bandmates couldn't and was fundamental to The Who's development. The story is told through interviews with Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Richard Barnes, Heather Daltrey, Terence Stamp, Robert Fearnley-Whittingstall, Irish Jack etc, archive footage and, best of all, Chris Stamp, whose good looks, enthusiasm, cocky charm and charisma shine through; he could've sold anything to anyone.
What also is evident is how exciting and fearless they all were in the 60s. If they had an idea they’d go for it. Fancy making a film; managing a pop group; signing Jimi Hendrix to a record label they’d only just thought of; making a rock opera? Yeah, come on, let’s go. Money was no object, insofar as they didn’t have any and racked up huge debts with little regard to any future consequences. Everything was lived for in the moment. The turning point came five years into their relationship and the enormous success of Tommy and then finally having more money than even they could spend.
Things fell apart in the 70s and relationships broke down, exacerbated by Kit’s drinking and drug habit; the appearance of Bill Curbishley managing affairs in a more money oriented manner; and the band giving Tommy to Ken Russell rather than allowing Lambert and Stamp to finally make the film they’d always dreamed of. Keith Moon in this period comes out with a lot of credit as he refused to sign any papers to terminate the band’s relationship with Kit and Chris, mindful of what they'd achieved together. Days after Keith died the job was done with brutal efficiency.
One quibble in the film is the failure to mention Peter Meaden and his influence shaping the Who. When Lambert clapped eyes on them, peering through the darkness of a Harrow and Wealdstone pub packed with Mods on a Tuesday evenning, it was in part due to Meaden creating the band in his own image and deserves acknowledgement for gifting the raw product to Lambert and Stamp who nurtured it into something far wider reaching. Also, the circumstances of Lambert's death in 1981 are brushed over. Chris Stamp died from cancer in 2012. Those things aside, it’s a wonderful film for fans of The Who, the 60s, and dreamers and schemers everywhere.
Lambert & Stamp is released in UK cinemas on 15 May 2015.