I’ve had people sit in on my interviews before, but this was the first time I’ve been joined by someone from the great beyond. At least that was the thinking when, just before I began my conversation with James D. Cooper, the radio in his hotel room began to play classical music with no intervention from this plane of existence. It was at that point that Cooper mentioned that it wasn’t the first time he’d been joined by Kit Lambert, the deceased half of the duo that is the subject of Cooper’s documentary, LAMBERT AND STAMP. While the music in the film is that of The Who, the group the eponymous pair managed into rock stardom, Kit’s father had been a renowned symphony conductor and classical composer, and Kit shared his passion for that genre of music.
We turned to the putative haunting towards the end of the interview on April 7, 2015, but before then we discussed the cultural breakdown in England after World War II, revolutionary ideas in band management, sifting through emotional realities, and the Herculean task of editing together a treasure trove of contemporary footage captured by Lambert and Stamp themselves for their own, never produced, documentary about The Who. In the background you can hear a bit of genuine San Francisciana with the sound of the cables cars providing a rich soundscape to our chat.
One thing not included in the formal interview was a lovely bit of trivia. There is always a bit of small talk before an interview begins as water and coffee are procured, sound checks are done, cell phones are silenced. With Mr. Cooper, the subject was the film of TOMMY that never was, the one that Lambert and Stamp would have made and, to my delight and infinite regret, I learned that Mick Jagger would have sung the Acid Queen. And that there had been serious negotiations to have Elvis involved.
Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert
LAMBERT & STAMP is Cooper’s documentary about the team that wanted to be filmmakers, but ended up managing one of the biggest rock bands to come out of England in the 1960s. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were an unlikely pair, the former from the aristocratic class, the latter the son of a tugboat captain, but together their combination of reflection and impulse led them not to the documentary they wanted to make about The Who, but rather to undreamed of success shaping the band, making them icons, and then seeing their influence slipping away. Using archival footage shot by the eponymous pair, and present-day interviews with the survivors, the film becomes more than just the story of a band and the dauntless duo who made them, but a portrait of a turbulent time when youth culture became pre-eminent and the rules they grew up with no longer applied. It’s also a star-crossed love story that had nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with passion. This is Cooper’s feature film directorial debut.