Lambert & Stamp

April 21st, 2016
Poster for Lambert & Stamp. Chris Stamp at left and Kit Lambert on right.

Poster for Lambert & Stamp. Chris Stamp is at left and Kit Lambert is on the right.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Calixte Stamp, Chris Stamp’s wife.

Last April I saw a review of Lambert & Stamp, the documentary, in Rolling Stone. More recently I screened a copy from Netflix. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp managed The Who. Usually one doesn’t focus on managers of bands, but over the years the team of Lambert and Stamp built up an undeniable mystique in my mind’s eye. For me, their story naturally begins in the early 1960s. I remember seeing The Who on Ready, Steady Go in the UK. The group’s music, dynamic visual delivery and destructive hijinks at the end of the show were mesmerizing.

The documentary by James D. Cooper was ten years in the making. Cooper met Chris Stamp in 1995 while the latter was working on a film about Keith Moon, The Who’s drummer. Ultimately Cooper didn’t work on this project, but Stamp liked Cooper’s approach to filmmaking and a friendship ensued. In 2002 Cooper explored the idea of a film on the creative team behind The Who with Chris and Stamp liked the idea. With Chris Stamp’s endorsement Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey came aboard.

Lambert & Stamp chronicles the formation of the partnership, the signing of The Who and the band’s rise to prominence. Lambert and Stamp were aspiring filmmakers. Christopher “Kit” Lambert was the son of Constant Lambert, the musical director of the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. He attended Oxford, was an army officer and gay. Being gay in UK at the time was illegal. Chris Stamp was a cockney, son of a tugboat captain and straight. Both men were war babies. Despite Kit’s posh upbringing he was openly gay and this crimped his prospects. On the other hand, Stamp’s circumstances were dimmed by class and poverty. His section of London, the Isle of Dogs, was severely bombed during the war. The family lived in a partially collapsed building. In the postwar economy his opportunities were bleak, so he became a hoodlum. His older brother Terrence, a rising actor, intervened and got him a job as an underaged prop man at the Sadler Wells Theatre. There he saw Chita Riviera in West Side Story and became entranced with show business. This transformation is eloquently covered in the documentary. Read the rest of this entry »

Roots of Woodstock Book Event and Concert

July 31st, 2014
FishCastle in concert

FishCastle in concert

On August 9, at 7 p.m., join Weston Blelock, author of Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock,” for a talk and book signing at the Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe. Blelock will discuss the events—including the Sound-Out Music Festivals in Saugerties—that inspired Michael Lang’s Woodstock Festival of 1969. Also on the bill are FishCastle, a lively folk duoCyril Caster and Catherine Selin, from Landenberg, PA. Caster is a past producer of the Sound-Outs and has played and recorded with Big Joe Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Elvin Jones, Pete Seeger, David Blue and Nico. His singing partner, Catherine has performed with numerous choirs here and abroad. In 2006 she won the Virginia Harp Center Challenge for composition.  The group play multiple instruments and are known for their diverse sound. Fans liken their music to the sounds of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Neil Young. The Inquiring Mind Bookstore is at the corner of Partition and Main Streets in Saugerties. The event is free and open to the public. For more info call 845-246-5775, visit www.woodstockarts.com or link to FishCastle Music on Facebook.

 

Rick Danko: The Man Behind the Music

December 20th, 2013
Carol Caffin and Rick Danko in Pennsauken, NJ, September 1990

Carol Caffin and Rick Danko in Pennsauken, NJ, September 1990

On December 29, Rick Danko, the bass player and singer in The Band, would have been 70. Danko grew up in Ontario, Canada, and left school at 14 to become a rock musician. His break came when he was tapped by Ronnie Hawkins to join The Hawks, one of Canada’s hottest bands at the time. It was there that he met Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel. In 1963 Danko, Helm, Robertson, Hudson and Manuel broke away from Ronnie Hawkins to form their own group. According to Rick’s obituary in the New York Times they toured under such names as the Canadian Squires. After performing session work for John Hammond, Jr., the group met John Hammond, Sr., who in turn introduced them to Bob Dylan. They soon joined Dylan in Woodstock. During Dylan’s hiatus from touring, they began to record in the basement of the big pink house in West Saugerties, which was found by Rick Danko. The tapes from those sessions became known as The Basement Tapes. The group became known as The Band and went on to record ten albums that are considered among the most influential of all time. In 1994, Rick joined fellow group members Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson on stage when The Band were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

To get a sense of the man behind the touring persona, I recently talked with Carol Caffin, Rick’s friend and longtime publicist. She described Rick as a “badass,” but in the next breath spoke of him as having an “innocent quality”—one of looking at the world around him with a sense of wonder. He was also by turns goofy, crazy, and shy. Not book-educated, he was thrust into the spotlight, into the world of rock and roll, and was able to adapt. “Stage Fright,” the song, was a good fit for his personality. He had a charismatic, one-of-a-kind spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Days at Family of Woodstock

November 15th, 2013
Gael Varsi at the Longyear Building

Gael Varsi at the Longyear Building

In 1971 the Woodstock Aquarian wrote, “Family is a crisis intervention service—a 24 hour hotline for major and minor crises. Family is communications—it is a gathering together of the community. It is a connecting service. Receptive in that it answers whatever need is shown. Family becomes a mirror of what is happening and what is lacking. It is open to whoever wants to work—straight, freak, in-between, whoever/whatever. Family becomes a learning process. What does it actually mean to be non-judgmental? It takes to feel out all that Family includes.” This was written by Gael Varsi, Family of Woodstock’s first employee.

Recently I spoke with Ms. Varsi by phone. She said she grew up in San Francisco, CA, and was working as a community organizer in Lloyd Park in 1970. On a trip east to Millbrook, NY, she heard about the job opening at Family. Alex Merson, proprietor of The Pants Shop and founder of Family, was looking to hire someone to run it. The modus operandi of the organization at that time was to help the many young people coming to town after the Festival of 1969. According to Gael, the (then) conservative Republican town had “no drinking fountains, public bathrooms or camping grounds.” She adds that she had to warn kids from California, who planned to camp out, about the “heavy Catskill Mountain downpours.”

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