The 1960s was an era that sparked a renaissance of artistic endeavour, specifically in the fields of music and film. It was also a period where both music and film first began to intertwine. This resulted in campy features, such as A Hard Days Night by The Beatles and more avant garde offerings like Pink Floyd‘s Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London. But it also brought a seismic shift that would change the face of contemporary music forever, as two aspiring film makers championed and transformed a small time rhythm and blues four piece into the multi million dollar rock behemoths, The Who.
Lambert and Stamp is the debut documentary of American film maker James D. Cooper and chronicles the unlikely partnership of Kit Lambert, the upper class gay son of a distinguished composer and Chris Stamp, the son of a tug boat captain; two struggling assistant directors who met while working at London’s Shepperton Studios. They formed a close creative bond and dreamed of producing a cinematic masterpiece. They hatched a plan to discover a pop group, become their managers and turn them into super stars, filming the entire process and releasing it as a feature. After months of searching, they eventually discover the band that would go on to be The Who. Using methods they learnt in the film industry, Lambert and Stamp completely remodelled the group’s image and encouraged their raucous on stage behaviour, and served as a creative muse for Pete Townshend, who cites Kit Lambert’s classical background as one of the key inspirations for the groups rock opera Tommy.
All of this is narrated by The Who’s surviving members, as well as the late Chris Stamp himself and is merged with a plethora of unseen archive footage from the duos ultimately unfinished movie.
While the film not only gives a warm, honest and often amusing re-telling of The Who’s origins, it also gives fantastic insights into post war Britain, the emergence of the teenager as a societal norm and the frenetic displays of youth rebellion that followed. It is fascinating to see how Lambert and Stamp used these factors to recruit and inspire the disenfranchised working class into becoming one of the key components of the counter culture.
Sadly though, the bands mainstream success begins to cause tensions with their managers, ironically due to the both Lambert and Stamp’s increasingly hedonistic behaviour and Townshend’s unwillingness to allow them to direct Tommy as a feature, causing them to end their partnership and in turn leading to Kit’s untimely death in 1985. The film seems to brush this tragic event under the rug and continues as more of a pompous tale of redemption from Chris Stamp’s perspective. Though this in turn leads to a heart warming final sequence, where Stamp affectionately recalls the love and intimacy he has for all that were involved with the bands creation.
Overall, Lambert and Stamp is an obvious must see for any Who fan, but also puts across a vital and engaging message that behind any artistic vision, however small it maybe, there must always be a committed and driven team behind the scenes. In the case of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, their enthusiasm, arrogance, camaraderie and determination have now rightfully been immortalised as a key chapter in one of the greatest legacies in rock and roll history.
Written by: Tom Curtis
Lambert & Stamp is out now in UK cinemas!