The Who was one of the biggest bands of the sixties and the seventies. They were known for their song craft and their volatile stage performances. What wasn’t as widely known was the work that went on to bring the group into the spotlight in the first place. That’s where the feature documentary Lambert & Stamp takes its starting point.
It was almost by accident that Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert started to work with The Who. The two men were looking for a band which would feature in a film. They came across The Who (called The High Numbers at the time). What they discovered was it would be far more interesting to get involved with the band as manager and producer. In collaboration with the band, Lambert & Stamp created a buzz around the group and shaped them into a successful and influential act.
The film uses a series of interviews with the surviving members of the band and Chris Stamp as the starting point. These talking head style pieces are forensically detailed accounts of the whole story. They are totally frank, and at times, brutally honest conversations. It makes for compelling viewing.
The interviews are interspersed with a wealth of archive footage featuring all the main players. The black and white films and extensive stills create an added dimension to the film. With the music of the band underpinning the whole thing the effect is very impressive. With a run time of just under two hours the film never loses any momentum. This is down to the fact that it is a fascinating story and the way in which it is told.
What becomes clear that there was no great master plan behind the progression of the band other than the next project. It was a case of get everything in place first. That meant prioritising the talent. Pete Townsend was marked as being the creative engine behind the band early on so he received special treatment. Then came the building of the brand, getting a deal and touring. It all appeared to be dealt with as they went along and Chris Stamp acknowledges that it wasn’t a well thought out business plan. Something that would come back to haunt him.
Anyone with a casual knowledge of The Who will know that the ending for a few of those involved was not pleasant. It becomes one of those stories where fame becomes too much, egos are inflated, money and power become the driving forces and death due to misadventure is inevitable. It is handled without any gloss here and there is areal sense of bitterness from all involved. What the film makers have done to try to end it in a lighter note is to bring us into the present day and show how the band and Chris Stamp have reconciled and on the face of it become close friends again.
Overall, a compelling documentary that gives a frank account of the rise and fall of one of the first major rock bands.