Rock ’n’ roll documentaries are a dime a dozen so you have to give some credit to the new film Lambert & Stamp
for taking a fresh approach to the subject matter. The film chronicles the early days of the Who by documenting the way in which their managers — Chris Stamp and the late Kit Lambert — had an influence on the band’s music and helped introduce the group to a wider audience. The movie opens today at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
As the story goes, Lambert, an Oxford-educated composer’s son, and Stamp, an aspiring filmmaker, initially decided to make a movie about the band. In the process of introducing themselves to the group, they also realized the band could use management. Not knowing anything about the music business, they pitched themselves in a double role. They would manage the group while making their movie. The guys gave them the green light. The rest, as they say, is rock ’n’ roll history.
The film certainly doesn’t imply that the Who wouldn’t have evolved into one of the biggest bands in the world without the help of Lambert and Stamp. But it does imply that they had a hand in things, starting with convincing the guys to change their name from the High Numbers and then encouraging Townshend to become the main songwriter.
“Their ideas were fantastic and that’s all I cared about,” admits singer Roger Daltry. Even though they would eventually have a falling out with Lambert and Stamp and sue them for "mismanagement," both Daltry and guitarist Pete Townshend are interviewed extensively in the film. They even acknowledge the duo as they accept their Kennedy Center Honors.
The movie has a nice natural arc to it too. Lambert and Stamp start managing the band. The band takes off. Lambert and Stamp are dismissed. Lambert develops addiction problems and passes away, but the band eventually reconciles with Stamp, who’s interviewed extensively in the movie.
Director James D. Cooper provides a warts-and-all look at the band’s early days that's really intriguing. If you’re familiar with the band, you’ll undoubtedly find out things you didn’t know about the group. And if you’re somehow not familiar with the band, you’ll find the rags to riches story to be fascinating. The soundtrack, which features a great collection of Who songs that really sound terrific in surround sound, kicks some serious ass as well.