Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp are not names that ring familiar in the annals of rock and roll history, let alone as subjects of a full-length, Sundance-debuted documentary Lambert and Stamp. The pair were the unlikely business mangers of the rock phenomena known as The Who, and this movie, directed by James D. Cooper, is the story of their brief and ingenious tenure as pathfinders to what would become one of the hottest bands on the planet.
As aspiring filmmakers at England’s famed Shepperton Film Studios (which The Who later purchased) in the early 1960s, Lambert and Stamp concocted a plan to create a movie about the burgeoning London mod youth subculture of music, sex, drugs, motor bikes and plaid dress suits, by filming a representative teenage rock ‘n roll band. Although they had specifics in mind (being like The Beatles would help tremendously) the two were prepared to sign nearly any rock band to a contract.
With no knowledge of how to manage a rock band, and little cash to support their enterprising ambition, the two, with film cameras in tow, stepped into a shabby London dive club, The Railway Hotel (since demolished) and crudely filmed their first meeting with the club’s house band, The Who – Roger Daltrey, Peter Townsend, John Entwhistle, and Keith Moon – known then as The High Numbers. On lovingly restored, grainy 16 mm black and white film, and with mod teenagers dancing in what looked like a collective glue sniffing trance, The Who are filmed agreeing to the novice business manager’s offers of support, guidance, and promised cash. The rest is Who history.
That Lambert and Stamp filmed and preserved so much historic footage may be reason enough for this patchy documentary’s existence. Lambert’s movie camera reveals a gritty and greasy, street level, mid-century British subculture of rebelling mods and rockers, as eye-popping montages – Jimi Hendrix is seen clubbing in quiet, common revelry – pass by as if unheralded (the duo would later manage and produce Hendrix).
While these images are intriguing and nostalgia soaked in the first half of the documentary, they grow a wee tiresome as the film rolls on. The movie’s main subjects – Lambert and Stamp – are less exciting than the momentous figures around them – namely The Who. The narrative arch is shallower than it might be had this simply been a documentary of The Who.
Kit Lambert, son of noted British composer Constant Lambert, and Chris Stamp, brother of actor Terrance Stamp (both Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp are now deceased) are nearly incidental characters who serve as mere rungs on the ladder of The Who’s impeding superstardom. The duo are just short of fascinating and this documentary is elusive in defining just what their contribution to rock and roll history is – were they pioneering visionaries or manipulative opportunists?
Surviving Who members Roger Daltrey and Peter Townsend speak glowingly throughout the film about them and claim them to be instrumental to The Who’s survival and success. Still, a slow burn emerges as they recount Lambert’s attempt to peddle Townsend’s rock opera “Tommy” to Hollywood film studios without the band’s permission after the album’s phenomenal success. This brought an end to the relationship between The Who and Lambert & Stamp.
There is so much never seen before film footage here, it is no question that Lambert and Stamp’s archive of moving images begged to be put in perspective. Watching a young Peter Townsend debut an acoustic and virgin “Glittering Girl” to the duo is a priceless rock ‘n roll moment. Witnessing the late and somewhat tragic Keith Moom as a young, enthusiastic and playful drummer is part sad and part joyful.
Yet an all encompassing history of The Who during this era is what this archive of film really amounts to. The weird point of view that is Lambert & Stamp, although enticing enough to send me to Wikipedia for further innuendo, seems an incomplete afterthought, as if their history has not been fully disclosed.
Lambert and Stamp is currently playing in movie houses.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00YHSZC9U,0812992881,1781311870]