Lambert in the studio in 1968, for the Tommy sessions.
|Birth name||Christopher Sebastian Lambert|
11 May 1935|
Knightsbridge, London, England
|Died||7 April 1981
|Associated acts||Jimi Hendrix
Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Kit Lambert was the son of the composer Constant Lambert and grandson of George Washington Lambert, a sculptor and painter who was an official war artist for the Australian government at Gallipoli during World War I.
Career in music and film
Lambert served in the British Army after studying at Trinity College, Oxford. After his service, he returned to Britain and became assistant director for the films The Guns of Navarone and From Russia with Love. He also set out on an expedition with two comrades, Richard Mason and John Hemming, to attempt to discover the source of a remote tributary of the Amazon River. Lambert hoped to film the trip as a documentary. While Lambert was off hunting for food, Mason was speared and killed by Amazon tribesmen. Lambert was initially arrested by Brazilian officials on suspicion of murdering his friend but after a concerted campaign in Britain by the Daily Express newspaper, which had financed the expedition, he was released.
Back in the UK, he and fellow film director Chris Stamp (the brother of actor Terence Stamp) decided to make a film that would show the behind-the-scenes life of a pop group, and how they go from nothing to fame and fortune. A hunt was started to find a new, unsigned band; the group that they chose was the High Numbers (known previously, and again afterwards, as The Who). Lambert and Stamp began filming concerts by the band, but eventually abandoned the film and became the Who's managers. Lambert also replaced Shel Talmy as the group's producer in 1966. While mainly associated with the Who, he also worked with other bands, and produced Arthur Brown's "Fire" in 1968. Lambert and Stamp established Track Records in 1966 in order to work with other artists including Jimi Hendrix, who was already signed with other managers, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Lambert convinced Pete Townshend to move away from simple songs on their earlier albums and to produce more mature fare. This encouraged the Who to progress from the more quirky sound of The Who Sell Out to the deeper themes of Tommy. Townshend has acknowledged that it was Lambert who influenced the Who to combine rock music and opera with the rock opera Tommy as the result.
While the Who was struggling to articulate Townshend's Lifehouse concept, Lambert shopped a film version of Tommy without the band's authorization - Townshend later said Lambert was falsely telling studios that Lifehouse was actually Tommy under a new name. This led to significant differences between him and the group, and after litigation was initiated for unpaid royalties, he and Stamp were fired in 1974, but only officially ended their partnership with the band two years later. The band reached out to Lambert in 1973 during the recording of Quadrophenia, but his drug abuse and the allegations of missing funds stalled the efforts at reconciliation. In the late 1970s he went on to produce some early punk bands, but with little success.
Ward of the court
At the peak of Lambert's success he owned a house in Knightsbridge, London, and the Palazzo Dario on the Grand Canal in Venice, where he was known as Barone Lamberti. Lambert claimed that he was conceived in Venice and hence he was romantically linked to the city. His neighbour in Venice was the heiress Peggy Guggenheim who Lambert was romantically linked with. However, excessive drug use brought him to the attention of the British police and he was arrested and charged with drug offences. As a defence, and one rarely used, a lawyer convinced Lambert to become a ward of the court whereby he would avoid charges and a prison sentence while the Official Solicitor would take charge of his affairs and give him a stipend out of his own money to live on each week. Meanwhile royalties from the albums that Lambert produced for the Who and Jimi Hendrix were steadily increasing each year. When Lambert died in 1981 his estate was worth over UK£490,000. Since he died the royalties that have flowed in from his various works to his inheritors have been over £1 million.
Book, final days
In 1980 Lambert, assisted by Irish journalist John Lindsay, began writing a book on his life, of how he found the Who, and with many never-before-told stories about his contemporaries The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Brian Epstein, Jimi Hendrix and friends like Princess Margaret and Liberace. Days before Lambert was to sign a publishing deal, the publisher was contacted by the Official Solicitor who was in charge of Lambert's life, and who said all monies must be paid into the court to be doled out to Lambert. This was the beginning of a downward spiral for Lambert.
Lambert died of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down the stairs of his mother's house in 1981, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. On the night of his death he was seen drinking heavily at a popular Kensington gay nightclub, El Sombrero, and according to many, including Townshend, he had been beaten up by a drug dealer that night over an unpaid debt, and this contributed to his fall and death.
Some material compiled by Lambert and Lindsay was included in a book called The Lamberts by writer and poet Andrew Motion, the British Poet Laureate. In 1986 The Lamberts won the Somerset Maugham Award literary prize. The tapes made by Lindsay of Lambert's interviews were several hours in length and became an important historical reference of the era of pop and rock music as well as Lambert's own tumultuous life. On the tapes Lambert dispelled some of the popular rumours that he had purposely perpetuated himself to generate publicity about his charges, only to reveal the real truth for the first time. Ironically, in reality Lambert's methods in promoting groups like the Who were far more eccentric and strange than popularly believed, marking him out as one of the most gifted and original showmen of the era. The two remaining members of the Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, have always acknowledged Kit Lambert as a major influence on their craft, along with his business partner Chris Stamp. On 13 December 2012 Independent Producer Orian Williams announced he was producing a biopic on Kit Lambert's life to be directed by actor Cary Elwes from a script by former Mojo magazine editor Pat Gilbert. Surviving Who members Townshend and Daltrey will contribute to the film which is based on a synopsis and taped material recorded by Lindsay.
- Allmusic.com Kit Lambert biography. Accessed on 5 March 2005.