Let me start off by saying that if you are or have ever been a fan of The Who, you are going to love this film. There is so much new information to learn, new perspectives to hear, and new stories to enjoy. I generally call myself a casual fan of The Who, and even I had never before heard of these two aspiring filmmakers who were almost single-handedly behind the band’s success.
For fans of documentaries, it will be a great viewing. For fans of The Who, it will be even better. For the average moviegoer, however, it is not a particularly accessible film. At least half of the audience in attendance at the screening I went to left before the credits rolled. I can conclude why, as I feel as though enough background of the band was established. Actually, most of the film is background and how Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp propelled the band to stardom. Perhaps I’m biased, and it maybe it’s like watching a family member perform at Open Mic Night if you are already a fan of The Who, compared to watching a stranger performing if you are not. Still, it really is a fascinating success story of how two seemingly careless filmmakers somehow found themselves managing one of the most popular rock bands of all time that I think anyone can enjoy.
I was astonished by how much original 8mm footage of the band’s early days was presented throughout the film. Whoever gave permission for the filmmakers to use it are the real heroes here. Honestly, I could’ve been entertained just watching The Who messing as reckless teens for hours. Every home video was so intimate and captured moments so well that they seemed they could have passed for shots in a narrative. This is not to say that the interviewees featured in the documentary weren’t just as necessary to the film as the archival footage. The reserved lead-singer of the band, Roger Daltrey, and the carefree guitarist, Pete Townshend, fill us in with both delightful and emotional anecdotes of their friendship with their two former managers. Although Kit Lambert passed away back in 1981, Chris Stamp provides a genuine, hilarious, and in-depth commentary on how he and his buddy rose to the top of the heap. It really hit me how special they were when he told a story about how they met Jimi Hendrix at a club and convinced him to sign with their record company before they had even created one. I wouldn’t have believed it if it weren’t accompanied by footage of the entire conversation. It was so refreshing to see so much original footage, rather than reenactments or photographs of the events. It makes the viewer feel as though he or she is reliving the stories rather than just hearing them.
The only real complaint I have about the film is that while it heavily focuses on band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, it barely glances over previous members such as bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. In fact, if I recall correctly, Entwistle is only mentioned once and it regards how he was a genius musician (apparently who only merits a few seconds out of note). But then again, the film is not titled “Entwistle & Moon,” or even “Daltrey & Townshend,” it’s titled “Lambert & Stamp. Daltrey and Townshend are also the only ones alive to give insight on any events touched upon in the film, so maybe I’m just stretching to find anything wrong with film. Just because a director makes few mistakes does not suddenly mean that he has made a masterpiece, however. The film does not take many risks within the documentary format; it is structured just as you’d expect it to be, but it is executed so well that is still surely worth your time. The fast paced editing and upbeat tone especially ties the film together and keeps its audience awake.
The story of Lambert and Stamp is one that deserves to be heard by those interested The Who and music history alike. It just might be one of the most unusual yet deserving success stories I have heard regarding the music industry. Even if you were not alive during The Who’s uprising, the film evokes an inescapable sense of nostalgia to a booming period of rebellion and self-expression. I’m only eighteen and it made me wish that I were young again! Imagine what it will make people who grew up listening to The Who feel.
Review by Harrison Jeffs
“Lambert & Stamp” is now playing in Boston theaters.