Lambert & Stamp joins the parade of mid-twentieth-century pop-music showcases with a documentary profile of one of the oddest couples in Mod-era 1960s London. Kit Lambert, son of a classical composer, was the epitome of upper class: a gay, Oxford-educated businessman looking for a rock band to film as an entrée to the entertainment scene. Chris Stamp, on the other hand, was a bar-brawling, bird-pulling, working-class Cockney from London’s East End (and brother of actor Terence Stamp). The original “chalk and cheese.” They met at Shepperton movie studios and bonded over a shared enthusiasm for filmmaking, but Kit and Chris’ lasting claim to fame — and the reason this refreshingly free-form, rough-riffing, pastiche portrait of an era was produced — is their relationship with the group of instrument-smashing provocateurs who called themselves the Who.
Filmmaker James D. Cooper outfits his excursion with Lambert and Stamp’s own grainy black-and-white period film footage of everyone concerned, with later interviews of head Who Peter Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, and Chris Stamp in his rakish-looking dotage — Stamp died in 2012, Lambert in 1981. When the two producer-managers first went to work for the band, Townshend, Daltrey, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle called themselves the High Numbers and prided themselves on their effrontery. K&L’s showbiz connections and their enthusiasm for the band’s hijinks reflected their defiance of the British class system. Recalls Daltrey: “Kit was the first posh guy I’d ever spoken to who was actually interested in me and wasn’t talking down to me.” Townshend, meanwhile, dug into Lambert’s classical record collection.
The doc has its limitations. Naturally we’re more interested in the working methods and mythology of the Who than in Lambert’s chain-smoking and alcohol problems, or the recollections of such odds and sods as Irish Jack. But maybe that’s the point. Once upon a time, Lambert and Stamp packaged one of the world’s most famous rock bands, and here’s our chance to peek behind the curtain. The Who has inspired countless homages, but you can no longer run into Kit or Chris in a bar and listen to their stories. This film is all that’s left of them.