Kit Lambert and Christopher Stamp became managers of The Who when they were named The High Numbers, and most of this documentary is about them—their relationship, how they got started in the business, and the ups and downs of the group, which ultimately rejected them, although the two had pretty much disengaged from each other and the group by that time. Nevertheless, in film interviews, Lambert and Stamp receive high praise from Townshend, Daltry, and Moon, who recognized their leadership at the time when the band was just getting started and needed it.
This film will probably be more of interest to hard-core rock-pop-mod fans than to fans of The Who, because it doesn’t have much of their music in the foreground. Instead, it is an account of how they got started and how their managers, Lambert and Stamp, furthered their popularity and brought them to the world stage. From a human-interest standpoint, it is most interesting, because the two men did not have a clear idea all of the time of what they were doing. Both frustrated filmmakers, they wanted to film a rock band, and had the idea that if they managed one, this would be the best way to accomplish it. Ironically, a film did eventually get made years later, but neither Lambert nor Stamp were involved in it.
Such is the history of contemporary music groups in our ever-changing world. Shifting loyalties, interests, and behaviors make it an unstable endeavor, and that’s what makes this story interesting. Two unlikely partners managed to pull together a motley group of musicians and steer them toward ultimate success. At the time of making the film, several of The Who players were deceased, but James D. Cooper, the director and cinematographer, managed to weave together a coherent history of one of the most well known rock bands of our time, and one known for technological innovations, and the development of rock opera. To his credit, Cooper doesn’t gloss over the bad stuff—this is a picture of the band over the years, warts and all.
Cooper, a cinematographer for most of his career so far, filmed much of the documentary using old photographs and videos and working closely with Chris Stamp, thus giving it a “Your are there” experience for the viewer.
The Who’s bumpy ride to fame.
Grade: A- By Donna R. Copeland