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‘Lambert & Stamp’ tells the
backstage story of The Who
The teenage revolution was in full force on the fall
1964 night that Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp stum-
bled into the Railway Tavern, a London pub where a
band called the High Numbers was playing and mods
were gyrating. It was London’s Swinging ’60s, with its
subculture explosion and stylish youths.
Such is the scene, glimpsed in footage shot that
night, at the beginning of the riotously entertaining
new documentary “Lambert & Stamp.” The two were
assistant film directors, frustrated by not ascending
to the director’s chair, but full of wild ideas. They
wanted to find a band to make a film about, but their
plans had wider cultural aspirations: “a mad (exple—
tive) concoction of stuff,” says Stamp in the film.
The frenetic energy and loud rhythm and blues
riffs of the High Numbers hit like a thunderclap, even
if they lacked in looks. (Later, some would worry that
they were too ugly to make it big.) When Lambert and
Stamp became their managers, they urged them to
take an earlier, abandoned name: The Who.
The infatuation was mutual. Lambert and Stamp
had zero knowledge of the music business, but they
were a captivating duo. Lambert, the son of a famous
conductor and an Oxford grad, was posh, erudite and
gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Brit-
ain. Stamp, the brother of the actor Terence Stamp,
was a dashing East End Cockney, the son of a tug boat
captain. N either cared a lick for convention.
“I loved them immediately,” Pete Townshend, the
guitarist and songwriter of The Who, says in the film.
“They changed my life forever.”
Lambert and Stamp would mold The Who (among
other things, they encouraged the songwriting of
Townshend) into one of the great rock ’n’ roll bands.
And it all started with an idea that, as Townshend says
in the documentary, was intended to “blow itself up”
in a year or two.
“Lambert & Stamp,” the directorial debut of J ames
D. Cooper, a veteran cinematographer, is an intimate
rock documentary that eludes most of the standard
beats of the genre. By focusing on the managers, the
movie takes a wider view, capturing the composite
nature of creative invention and cultural change.
It’s almost all depicted in the film in black and
white: gritty in period footage, classy in contempo-
rary interviews. Stamp died in 2012, but was inter-
viewed extensively before passing away. Lambert,
though, died in 1981. His presence (the more magnetic
and fascinating of the two) hovers over the film from
“Lambert & Stamp” hums frantically in the first
half with the spirit of teen rebellion that propelled
both The Who and its unconventional orchestrators.
(Singer Roger Daltrey, Townshend says in a way that
could only be cutting, was the only “conventional”
figure of the bunch.) But the film, perhaps inevitably,
subsides in the second half, as the familiar fallout of
fame — drugs, death, disputes over a film of the rock
‘Lambert & Stamp’
Rated: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Star rating: **
opera “Tommy” — wrecks the relationships.
“Anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose,” was the
anthem The Who sang, and their managers (who
signed J imi Hendrix to a record deal before actually
having a record label) were perfect representatives
of the song.
Their genius was in realizing the sea change that
was happening. Speaking to a news program, in
French no less, Lambert predicted that the ’60s Mod
scene would be no mere fad, but a youth movement
that would regenerate with every generation. Indeed,
The Who got older; the kids stayed the same age.
PICTORIAL PRESS/SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
Chris Stamp, from left, Pete Townshend of The Who, and Kit
Lambert appear in a scene from the documentary film
"Lambert & Stamp."