In the 1960s and into the 70s, 80s and beyond, few bands rocked like The Who. Absolutely no one. Essentially a three-piece band with a vocalist, The Who mattered big time to a generation of kids desperate to find themselves and define themselves as different, and better than their working class parents.
In some ways those now in their 60s succeeded and in other ways, not so much.
The band is said of have peaked with the rock opera Tommy released in May of 1969 and is said to have given its greatest performance at Woodstock the same year. Rock connoisseurs and fans of the band know their best work came in 1971 with Who’s Next.
I caught them in 1977 at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum on their last tour before drummer Keith Moon died. It was an amazing concert punctuated by a standing ovation when they did the Tommy medley about half way through the concert.
A screaming audience took a short, sharp, collective breath and the cheering stopped when Moon, perched 10 or 12-feet above the band, leaped over his drums and off of the riser and landed atop singer Roger Daltry and started pummeling him.
Today — and at the time — the power it took to make that leap blows my mind. And it was all in fun. And that was The Who.
Like most rock bands, the four guys and their producers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were like a dysfunctional family. All were co-dependent and survived on the chaos generated from the music and their relationship to each other.
Today only two band members are left. Guitarist and composer Pete Townsend and Daltry. Moon died in the 1980s of drug and alcohol abuse and bassist John Entwhistle — considered by many to be the greatest rock bassist of all time — passed away a couple of years ago from a heart attack induced by cocaine.
The movie Lambert & Stamp is their story and the story of the two unlikely producers and managers that discovered the band in the mid-1960s. Lambert came from wealth and a famed classical music family and Stamp — the brother of famed actor Terrance Stamp — from more modest means.
They originally started out to be filmmakers and looked for a band as the topic of a movie. That band turned out to be The High Numbers who evolved into The Who.
Lambert & Stamp is a first directorial effort by producer-director James D. Cooper whose career — until now — has been in cinematography and camera operation on films and documentaries you’ve never heard of. The first half-an-hour of the movie makes that obvious. It’s beautifully done but Cooper can’t seem to get any sort of focus on the band, the times or Lambert and Stamp.
Lambert died in 1981 after falling down some stairs and Stamp — like many of his generation — struggled for years with drugs and alcohol. They’re interesting men and their story is — in some ways — equally interesting. But it’s not close to as fascinating as their band. So the movie’s flaw is Lambert and Stamp who ought to have been just one of the movie’s moving parts.
Townsend, Daltry, some rockers of the time as well as the band’s friends and family, and the friends and family of Lambert and Stamp are featured. It includes a pulse-pounding soundtrack and a peek back at the incredible music creativity found in the late 1960s and early 1970s by a band that — as noted earlier — helped shape a generation.
Music fans — especially fans of The Who — don’t want to miss this one. Warts and all, it’s a fabulous trip down rock and roll memory lane.
Click here to see the trailer.
Director: James D. Cooper
Stars: Pete Townsend, Roger Daltry, Chris Stamp, Kit Lambert
Rating: 4 pulse-pounding, raucous rock songs out of 5
Lambert & Stamp is rated R for mature themes, language and drug use. Click here for showtimes and theaters.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0: Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion? Email him!