Pair put magic stamp on Who

Kit Lam­bert and Chris Stamp set out to make a film. In­stead, they trans­formed a band.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Su­san King

Kit Lam­bert and Chris Stamp were a class apart.

Lam­bert was a mem­ber of the aris­toc­racy. His fa­ther was com­poser-con­duc­tor Con­stant Lam­bert. He was ed­u­cated at Ox­ford and was flu­ent in sev­eral lan­guages. He was gay but dis­creet be­cause ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was il­le­gal in Eng­land in the 1960s.

Stamp was born dirt poor in Lon­don’s tough East End. The younger brother of ac­tor Terence Stamp, he was so un­abashedly in­ter­ested in women that he once got a job back­stage at the ballet as a way to meet them.

But de­spite their dif­fer­ences, the two bonded work­ing as as­sis­tant film di­rec­tors at Shep­per­ton Stu­dios.

They loved French New Wave films, jazz and lit­er­a­ture. And since they both wanted to be­come film di­rec­tors, they hatched an idea of find­ing a fledg­ling rock group and doc­u­ment­ing its jour­ney to suc­cess.

“Lam­bert & Stamp,” a doc­u­men­tary from direc­tor James D. Cooper that opened Fri­day, chron­i­cles the fas­ci­nat­ing story of th­ese busi­ness part­ners who took a rough-and-tum­ble group known as the High Num­bers and, as its man­agers, helped trans­form Pete Town­shend, Roger Dal­trey, Keith Moon and John En­twistle into the leg­endary rock band the Who.

Along the way, Lam­bert and Stamp cre­ated a suc­cess­ful la­bel, Track Records. They pro­duced the Jimi Hen­drix Ex­pe­ri­ence. They lived like rock stars. But drugs, dis­agree­ments and money even­tu­ally got in the way. The Who fired them in the 1970s.

Lam­bert, who bat­tled drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, died in 1981 at age 45 of a cere­bral hem­or­rhage af­ter a fall at his mother’s house.

Stamp had also dealt with sub­stance abuse but, un­like Lam­bert, turned his life around and be­came a psy­chodrama ther­a­pist and ad­dic­tion coun­selor.

Cooper, a cine­matog­ra­pher who makes his fea­ture de­but with “Lam­bert & Stamp,” de­scribes the film as a love story. In fact, he noted, women who have at­tended screen­ings have told him that “this is prob­a­bly the first and most bril­liant ex­am­i­na­tion of the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of men.”

When he pitched the idea to Stamp, whom he had known for sev­eral years, Cooper told him, “I don’t want to do a Who doc­u­men­tary. I want to do some­thing about the emo­tional re­al­ity of this.” When Stamp fi­nally agreed to par­tic­i­pate, he told Cooper, “If you are will­ing to put your­self through this, you will have my com­plete par­tic­i­pa­tion and avail­abil­ity.”

“Lam­bert & Stamp” fea­tures a trea­sure trove of archival footage from the era, a pul­sat­ing sound­track and re­veal­ing in­ter­views with Town­shend, Dal­trey and, most no­tably, the charis­matic Stamp, who died of can­cer in 2012 at age 70.

“In the last cou­ple of years, you could see his health catch­ing up with him,” said Cooper. “I knew he was hav­ing some is­sues, but he never brought that to the fore­front. He en­tered into this process with me, and he wasn’t go­ing to be the first to say, ‘It’s too much.’ He just kept show­ing up and show­ing up in a mar­velous way.”

Be­cause Lam­bert had been dead for al­most 35 years, Cooper said it was chal­leng­ing to make au­di­ences feel his pres­ence in the film.

“We were in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate that both of th­ese guys had been filmed to the de­gree they had,” said Cooper. “But just be­cause you have footage of the per­son doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you are pre­sent­ing them in a char­ac­ter arc. We had to work very hard in the struc­ture of the film to de­velop [Lam­bert’s] char­ac­ter and to keep his place­ment in the film.”

Though Lam­bert and Stamp had no ex­pe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing and no money when they met the group in 1964, Town­shend and Dal­trey told Cooper that they “had a kind of magic be­tween the two of them that was ir­refutable. They said it was some­thing you can’t de­scribe. The two of them to­gether were mes­mer­iz­ing, in­tox­i­cat­ing and al­lur­ing.”

Sony Pic­tures Clas­sics

THE WHO’S Pete Town­shend is flanked by band man­agers Chris Stamp, left, and Kit Lam­bert. The duo’s wild story is the fo­cus of “Lam­bert & Stamp.”

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