Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Lambert and Stamp and the Who made it up as they went along

Chris Stamp was the brother of Terence, the film star. Kit Lambert was the son of Constant, the celebrated classical musician.

They met in the film business of the early sixties. They got into music to further their film careers. They reckoned that the only way they could get a seat at the table when movie deals were made was by coming along with their own pop group who wrote their own material. That's how they found The Who.

They signed the group by promising to pay them a weekly wage. The Who's parents were very impressed by the weekly wage. Lambert and Stamp didn't know much about the music business but they managed to keep the weekly wage coming long enough to inspire the group. Lambert encouraged Townshend to write long-form pieces that could be performed in concert halls. Stamp showed the group how to carry themselves.

By the time they came to record "Who's Next" in 1971 Lambert and Stamp were so deep in drink and drugs that the group had to take care of themselves. Lambert never quite sobered up and died in 1981. Stamp eventually got straight and has made his peace with The Who, peace enough for them to be featured in a fascinating little documentary about their unique relationship with the group.

Because they were film guys the footage of the group they shot back in the days is surprisingly beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that it looks almost artificial. The best bit is Townshend and Daltrey sitting together doing what they never did back in the day, which is actually discuss the tensions within the group. Like all the survivors of the sixties they look back in amazement at the things you could get away with in those days just before everybody learned how to be professional.


  1. It strikes me that as soon as people learn how to be professional that's the time to make your excuses and run.

    This seems to apply to almost any discipline (film, comedy, photography, sport - see 'The Premier League') but is especially apt for pop music.

    It always ties in with playing in huge stadia instead of small clubs, and my record collection is full of abrupt halts when presumably people learned how to be professional (a.k.a. tailored their product for the U.S. market - see The Kinks, The Pretty Things, The Pink Floyd).

    With regards to The Who I don't even get as far as 'Tommy'. I never quite got the rock opera stuff when you could be doing 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere', 'Pictures of Lily' and 'I'm A Boy' instead.

  2. Agreed.
    "Tommy" is this that and the other to all men/women, but it left me cold, well cool, when it first appeared. I still have the vinyl double somewhere, but I never bother nowadays.
    I feel a bit like that towards “A Quick One, While He’s Away”. Only 10 minutes, but the other tracks on the album make up for its “precursor-to-something-grander” ambitions.

    I saw The Who way way back at Pete Stringfellow’s Mojo Club in Sheffield. This was long before he morphed into Peter Stringfellow, the fellow we know and love today. Back then he was a genuine hip-to-the-jive-dude. Or a good facsimile, thereof.
    The Mojo, along with Terry Thornton’s Esquire catered for those of us who couldn’t get to London to see the “happening groups”.

    Anyway, The Who were just four rocking good chaps who were well behaved (shocking, I know) and who delivered a VERY LOUD and unpretentious knock-’em-dead set. No lights, no smoke, a cheap(ish) Danelectro getting the occasional Townsend guitar-into-amp treatment, rather than the Rickenbacker.
    Feel much the same about The Pretty Things, who I also saw at The Mojo well before “SF Sorrow” appeared. Ditto The Small Faces (Ogden) who I saw somewhere, but not The Mojo.
    Still like The Who et al, but not all the later stuff by a long shot. But that’s just me.