Friday, April 24, 2015

The Who’s Original Managers Get Their Rock Doc Due

Opening today exclusively in the Triangle area at the Raleigh Grande:

(Dir. James D. Cooper, 2014)

This fascinating documentary focusing on the original managers of The Who arrives in a timely fashion to Raleigh as the iconic British rock band just played a show in town at the PNC Center earlier this week. 

I was among the thousands at the sports arena to see the remaining founding members, singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend, joined by a tight backing band including Ringo’s son Zak Starkey on drums, bash out over 20 of their classics for their “The Who Hits 50!” tour. The Who was an obsession of my youth so songs like “I Can’t Explain,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “I Can See For Miles” (among many, many others) are in my blood. Despite their advancing age and some flubs here and there, The Two, as many fans call them, really brought it.

Over the years there’s been countless docs, books, interviews, and profiles in major music magazines that have told and retold the history of The Who, but a crucial part of their back story, the intracacies of their origin story if you will, usually gets glossed over.

And that’s the story of how Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, two best friend aspiring filmmakers who, despite no management experience, managed, mentored, and helped make famous four blokes who, when they discovered them, went by the name The High Numbers.

Lambert, the son of acclaimed classical composer Constant Lambert, died in 1981, but the 70-year old, still dapper Stamp sat down for extensive interviews for first-time documentarian James D. Cooper, relaying anecdotes about the duo’s schemes and dreams that involved making a movie about a pop band that would establish them as first class filmmakers.

After months of searching through candidates they thought were 
“too clean,” Lambert and Stamp came across the High Numbers at a small London club in the summer of 1964, and were immediately taken by them. Then Lambert and Stamp’s plan to make a film was put on the back burner as they became the band’s managers and went about reshaping their image. This included changing their name to The Who, billed on posters with the tagline: “Maximum R & B.”

Flashy black and white footage, some of the first ever shot of The Who, capture the Mod movement in full swing, while fleeting bits of live shows display how the band’s abrasive energy connected with their small but growing audience. However, one not well versed in the British rock legends, could be forgiven for watching much of this and thinking that the Who’s entire early act consisted of making loud feedbacky noise then smashing their instruments.

Daltrey and Townshend are on hand to give insights from the band’s side, particularly Pete, always a great interview subject, who passionately speaks about long-gone Who members, bassist John Entwistle (“he was a fuckin’ genius!”) and drummer Keith Moon (“he wasn’t a drummer…he did something else”), and laments about overhearing that the two were considering leaving The Who to form Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page (“I felt like a real outsider”).

One of the film’s musical highlights is footage of the young, lanky, slightly nervous Townshend playing a solo acoustic version of a new song, “Glittering Girl,” which would go on to be a beloved outtake from the 1967 album “The Who Sell Out,” in person for the adoring managers. “I do feel like they treated me differently,” Townshend recalls now about their relationship.

After The Who started hitting it big, Lambert and Stamp went on to manage Jimi Hendrix, Thunderclap Newman, Arthur Brown, and Golden Earring. But a falling out, seemingly fueled by booze and drugs, with Townshend over the sessions for “Who’s Next” in 1971 led to the band firing the pair in ‘75. Stamp seems still a bit upset about this, and that he didn’t get to direct TOMMY, the film version of The Who’s 1969 rock opera, when making a movie featuring the band was the whole idea in the first place.

Who biographer Richard Barnes, Daltrey’s second wife Heather, original Mod Irish Jack (considered to be the inspiration for The Who’s “Quadrophenia”), and actor Terence Stamp, Chris’ older brother, are also on hand to flesh out the film with sometimes witty, sometimes sad anecdotes about the bombastic band and their two eccentric managers.

Folks interested in the music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the mechanics of making a band in that era should enjoy LAMBERT & STAMP, but really it’s a doc that the millions of people that cheer and pump their fists to the band’s 50th Anniversary tour should really seek out. Both casual and hardcore fans alike owe it to themselves to learn about who really made The Who happen.

More later...

No comments: