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Review: 'Lambert & Stamp' has you aching for more Who

Tom Long
The Detroit News

Someday, someone may well make a good film about the rock band The Who. "Lambert & Stamp" is not that film.

That's at least in part because this documentary is not about The Who. It's about their managers. And it shows clearly why managers don't come out on stage and take bows. They're not all that fascinating.

That said, Lambert and Stamp are at least a bit fascinating, or at least somewhat interesting. But this film runs nearly two hours. They are at best an hour-and-a-half's worth of interesting.

The most intriguing thing about the duo is how they ended up managing The Who at all. They had no experience, no contacts in the music business and no money. Each was a young assistant director on films in the early '60s and they decided to team up, find a budding rock band and make a movie about the band. This was supposed to be their breakthrough into big time directing.

How this odd couple ever came together is never really explained. Kit Lambert was a gay Oxford-educated upper-class type, the son of a respected classical music conductor. Chris Stamp was a working class kid with no apparent talent whose older brother, Terence, happened to be a rising movie star. Kit and Chris met while working on films, bonded, and went off to find a band.

The band they found was called The High Numbers, a mod outfit comprised of singer-leader Roger Daltry, guitarist Pete Townsend, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwhistle. The early footage of them playing in a dinky club makes you ache to follow their story.

Instead, director James D. Cooper elects to follow Lambert and Stamp, and mostly Lambert because it's difficult to pin down what exactly the affable, good-looking Stamp did (this is not unusual with rock managers). Lambert pushed Townsend into the point position as the band's songwriter. He then changed the band's name, took over producing their records and eventually started the first indie record label and fostered other bands' hits.

And then he went into the typical drug-fueled downward rock spiral. And eventually The Who dropped the duo. The momentous film they planned was never made.

All this is told through interviews with Townsend, Daltry, Stamp and assorted others who were in the scene. Moon, Entwhistle and Lambert are all deceased. As a portrait of the band and its times, "Lambert & Stamp" is frustratingly incomplete. As a portrait of Lambert, it is perhaps overly taken with its subject. Hardcore Who fans will probably find a lot to enjoy here; others, not so much.

'Lambert & Stamp'


Rated R for language, some drug content and brief nudity

Running time: 117 minutes