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Lambert & Stamp PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
09 06 2015

ImageDirected by James D Cooper

The Sixties was a decade awash with odd alliances and curious couplings between the posh and the workers, both sides liberated from the prewar certainties of culture and class. But it produced few pairs so unlikely as the two Christophers: Lambert ( the patrician Kit) and Stamp ( a plebeian Chris). Kit was the son of Constant Lambert, eminent composer and musician, godson of American art collector Peggy Guggenheim, Oxbridge educated, gay; Chris a tugboatman's son who got a job backstage at the ballet to pull girls, and was instantly dazzled by theatrical life. Also, as it happens, brother of the more famous Terence, whose now grizzled, sharply-honed chops make a couple of appearances talking about his kid brother.

Meeting, they found a perfect rapport, and when Kit, already an assistant director, wanted to make a film about an upcoming pop group, they latched onto a driven-looking band called The High Numbers, soon to become The Who. Excerpts from that film, which was never to be finished, pepper the early part of this this one. It crackled with energy, but as they progressed, what Kit became excited by was the desire to stop being an outsider looking in and instead manage the band.

The Who were never quite like other bands in the 60s, always more intense, more ‘musical' if you like, disdaining soppy love songs and moving swiftly on, for good or bad, to the ‘rock opera' form, producing Tommy and Quadrophenia. To a great extent this was Kit's work. Seizing on the talent of art-school-educated Pete Townsend, whom he introduced to the complexities of the likes of Purcell and Bach, together with the streetwise and confident Stamp he produced a monstrous enthusiasm for musicality and a creative philosophy that was very much heightened by the talent of John Entwhistle and the mischievous anarchy brought to the party by manic drummer Keith Moon.

‘Hope I die before I get old' sang The Who, and the three survivors who most failed to follow their own aspirations, Townsend, Daltry and Stamp (though the latter died, a fact strangely unmentioned in the end credits, during the making of the film) provide a lively, thoughtful commentary - Townshend, that fierce beaky young face now thickened out and contemplative, Daltry comfy and contented in a sweater, Stamp as ever the cheeky chappie.

But it's Lambert, dead from a drunken fall in 1981, who is the real star in old footage. Unprepossessing in looks, he nevertheless had enormous charisma, a great manager, full of energy and confidence but never brash, fluent in (at least) French and German, interested in everything, living on the edge and sprouting with ideas. In later year his driven personality pushed him to drugs and drink, leading to disagreements and a parting of the ways, when, unexpectedly, only Keith Moon, a fellow addictive personality, really stayed close. How good this was for both of them is dubious.

The music of the band pounds and screams throughout, an anarchic background as we watch how things progressed, through band success, the taking on of Track Records, into what amounted to showbiz empire with helicopters landing at their headquarters at Shepperton Studios. A tale of bright, if sometimes misguided, youth, and how, whatever material gain may be made, nothing is ever quite so good as the days when nothing is safe or certain but everything's to go for.

Seen at Tyneside Cinema, 25 May 2015

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