Lambert & Stamp
Want to discover how that “deaf, dumb and blind kid sure played a mean pinball?”
While the British may have lost when its North American colonies rebelled in the 18th century, they successfully re-invaded when British rock and roll conquered American youth beginning in the 1960s. As demonstrated by David Chase’s overlooked film Not Fade Away (2012), the Beatles first hit American radio following JFK’s assassination in late 1963. Parents may have been in anguish, but kids knew that something was born even as our beloved President died.
Graduating from high school in 1965, I was one of those fans. Though I loved the Beatles along with The Stones, The Dave Clark Five and Eric Burton and The Animals, nothing ever rivaled The Who. I still have retained their classic albums “My Generation” (1965), “Tommy” (1969), “Who’s Next” (1971) and “Who Are You” (1978). Nothing better symbolized the old rock and roll slogan, “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.”
So please excuse me if I over-react a bit with my admiration of the wonderful documentary Lambert & Stamp. It describes the lives of the two crazy, lovely gentlemen who discovered and promoted a nondescript rock band that proceeded to adopt their now classic name. With this film you get to relive a moment in history that is as meaningful as it is entertaining.
To begin with, Lambert and Stamp were two energetic young Englishmen who met by accident in London in the 1960s. They were polar opposites, with Lambert being an Oxford educated son of a noted composer while Stamp came from a working class background. Despite lacking any knowledge of rock music or making films, they decided to find a rock band and film a story that would rocket them into stardom. This film is their story.
The band they discovered was then known as The Detours. They were playing in a small pub that was packed with teenagers looking to break free from society’s norms while also having the chance to dance.
Fortunately for everyone, the band was composed of lead singer Roger Daltrey, two guitar players by the names of Peter Townsend and John Entwhistle, and a drummer by the prophetic name of Keith Moon. Though they seemed like the guys suited for their film project, neither Lambert or Stamp was particularly excited given their impression that none of the boys were very handsome. I should note that they were also troubled by the size of Townsend’s nose.
The film really describes a set of geniuses colliding as if they were two sets of satellites orbiting the Earth. Lambert was a chain-smoking dynamo who had Townsend move in with him to help guide his enormously creative musical talent. In an on-screen interview, Townsend clearly loved those years, and laughed when he still expressed disappointment that the gay Mr. Lambert made no attempts to seduce him.
As The Who started to produce hit records, the entire team was constantly short of money. The Who were paid a salary as Stamp constantly raised funds as he ignored unpaid debts. The movie largely consists of interviews with guys who have survived, and Director James D. Cooper should be credited with honoring those who have died. Both Moon and Entwhistle succumbed to drug addiction, while Lambert’s constant smoking and drinking eventually led him to his grave.
On the other hand, you will likely find the interviews with Townsend and Daltrey captivating as they described how the rock opera Tommy helped to mollify their strained relationship. That classic work of art finally made a fortune for our guys, and Townsend was able to succeed in writing most of the lyrics under the guidance of Lambert and his family background.
While you may hear a bit too much from Mr. Stamp as he and his wife dominate the film, he clearly is a character to be admired. When you discover that his brother Terrance is a well known English actor, you know that his talent did not fall far from the family tree.