“Lambert & Stamp,” a documentary about “the fifth and sixth members of The Who,” is essential viewing for fans of the wild, woolly British Invasion band fronted by Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry.
More than that, though, director James D. Cooper’s remarkable assemblage of archival footage, early concert clips, illuminating interviews and reminiscences filled with love, humor, regret and rock ’n’ roll opens the window on a pivotal time in 1960s (and early 1970s) pop culture.
The mad collision of disparate forces in Swinging London — art schoolers, musicians, filmmakers (and wannabe filmmakers), the Mods, the Rockers, Oxford aesthetes, club owners, fashionistas — spawned a vital movement, a creative wave. The tidal forces still are being felt.
The beating hearts of this tale are Kit Lambert, the erudite son of a famous British composer, and Chris Stamp, the son of a tugboat captain (and brother of actor Terence Stamp). What this unlikely duo had in common was a passion for film, especially the freewheeling “vérité” of the French New Wave. When they stumbled on a band called the High Numbers banging out songs in jammed London clubs, the two men saw their entrée. They would make a movie about the quartet of Daltry, Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon — and use that to forge a career.
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As it happened, the fledgling documentarians became the group’s managers and producers. The High Numbers became The Who. “I Can’t Explain” and “My Generation” became anthems of teen rebellion. And Lambert and Stamp, with no experience whatsoever in artist management, recording or production, became a force on the London music scene, eventually producing records by Jimi Hendrix and releasing Top 10 singles on their own label, Track Records. (There’s a great, albeit fleeting, bit of a Hendrix performance in the film.)
Daltry and Townshend, surviving members of the band, provide candid commentary on the storm-tossed history of The Who.
Stamp, who died in 2012, offers bursts of insight in his on-camera interviews. It’s easy to see how Stamp, a natty gent full of wit and charm, talked his way into a world — worlds, actually — where he had no business being.
Lambert, who struggled with alcohol and drug addictions (and was a lifelong chain-smoker), died in 1981 at age 45. But his presence in the film — and in the hearts and minds of its principal players — is powerful. “Lambert & Stamp” is the story of an odd, deep friendship. It’s a revelation.
LAMBERT & STAMP
☆☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry, Kit Lambert, Chris Stamp
Director: James D. Cooper
Running time: 1:47
Rated: R, for profanity, drugs, adult themes