Who would’ve guessed that a British Army officer was perhaps the greatest creative force behind rock legends The Who? That’s the premise of Lambert & Stamp, a compelling new documentary that focuses on the band’s original management team and somehow finds a way to retell their story in a fascinating new way.
Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were aspiring filmmakers who came up with a scheme: they’d make a documentary about one of the bands on the mid-’60s London scene and launch their movie careers. They somehow picked an awkward and unglamorous band called The High Numbers and began acting as managers to create events that they could film. Even though the pair knew nothing about the music business, they stuck with the band as they renamed themselves The Who. Lambert became Pete Townshend’s most important creative collaborator and produced the band’s albums up through Tommy.
Lambert was the son of prominent British composer Constant Lambert and served in the Army after attending Oxford. He worked as an assistant director on the second James Bond film From Russia With Love. Stamp was a working-class kid who was the younger brother of actor Terence Stamp. The two met at Shepperton Studios, a facility that The Who would eventually own after they finally achieved a financial success that matched their creative achievements.
Like the Kinks (who never really achieved massive success here), the Who struggled to crack America in the ’60s. Tommy was their breakthrough here and it caused the events that caused the band’s rift with their managers. Lambert & Stamp thought Tommy would finally give them their chance to make a movie and Townshend resented their presumption and lack of focus on his career.
The documentary was conceived and created by director James D. Cooper, who had the idea after becoming friends with Stamp. Although Lambert died in 1981, there’s a remarkable amount of footage of him being interviewed during the band’s career. The film is sympathetic to the managers’ side of the story but Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey gave the filmmakers extensive (and multiple) interviews and, after a few decades to get over the breakup, seem eager to give Lambert and Stamp credit for their roles in taking a London R&B cover band to the top, convincing them to write their own material and encouraging the elaborate stagings and concept albums that would cement the band’s place in rock history.
The movie mentions the fact that Lambert and Stamp’s label Track Records signed Jimi Hendrix to the recording contract that made him a star and that Lambert had a successful career producing acts like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (“Fire”) and Labelle’s debut album.
Both managers crashed and burned after the band fired them in 1974. Stamp eventually conquered his demons and became a well-regarded drug counselor. He died in 2012 after completing his interviews for this film. This is an essential music documentary for anyone who loves The Who or even anyone who’s interested in the swinging London scene of the 1960s.
The Blu-ray comes with an UltraViolet Digital copy of the film and special features that include a couple of promo films and some raw archival footage. Both the Blu-ray and DVD have a fascinating commentary by director James D. Cooper and an interview with Cooper by punk rock legend Henry Rollins.