With a nostalgic, wry smile Pete Townshend admits not wanting to have been in a band to such a ripe-old age and reminisces that whilst they may have been irreverent in their youth, The Who “did give a fuck”. The band’s longevity, says the now legendary guitarist, is thanks to a team ethos instilled by the management of two men who had no previous experience whatsoever in the music industry. James D. Cooper’s Lambert & Stamp (2014) explores the chalk and cheese pairing of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, The Who’s mentors.
Like Amadeus Mozart and Sid Vicious forming a two-piece, they were the very definition of opposites attracting. However, as Stamp’s rather well known actor brother, Terence, suggests, theirs was a case of two and two making six. Like the staccato consonants of My Generation, Lambert & Stamp buzzes with furious energy from its opening chords, a frantically edited credit sequence chopping together archival footage and black and white photography of the group.
Eschewing any real adulation for The Who and their music, the film doesn’t feature scenes of screaming fans or even a great deal of hits but instead focuses more on personal backgrounds, the creative process, complicated band dynamics, the interrelationships of performer and audience members and how society informed the songs they wrote. Indeed, they harboured aspirations that rock opera Goliath, Tommy, could bring down the Iron Curtain if played for audiences in Moscow. It may have been a turning point for the band but never prompted regime change. Any delusions of grandeur are long gone in the charmingly humble contemporary thoughts of the articulate, philosophical Townshend and affable frontman, Roger Daltrey. Drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle – who both sadly died before they got old – are spoken of lovingly and appear in the many reams of 16mm footage shot by Lambert and Stamp who were both, first and foremost, filmmakers.
Stamp, who has passed since the filming of Cooper’s doc, recounts the love he and Lambert shared for the French New Wave and how making a cinema vérité-inspired rock ‘n’ roll movie was their way into the big time. The rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps it is thanks to the liberal, free-thinking artists on show that Lambert’s homosexuality is dealt with so respectfully and despite its illegality at the time there is no suggestion that there was ever any kind of judgement or bigotry amongst those in the inner circle. Instead his affinity for language, altruism and unbound enthusiasm for the task at hand is spoken of with a very sincere reverence by all. It could be the subject matter of the final third – the cracks in relationships ever widening and drugs spinning out of control – that makes the running time hard to swallow, but Lambert & Stamp does labour towards its conclusion and is far too long. It will, however, provide lifelong fans and the uninitiated alike a worthwhile insight to the six men who made up a four piece band.
Matthew Anderson | @behind_theseens