|Birth name||Christopher Sebastian Lambert|
|Also known as||Baron Lambert|
Kit "The Baron" Lambert
|Born||11 May 1935|
Knightsbridge, London, England
|Died||7 April 1981 (aged 45)|
Record label owner
|Years active||1964–1976 manager|
1967-1978 label owner
|Associated acts||The Who|
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Crazy World of Arthur Brown
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Kit Lambert was the son of composer Constant Lambert and part-time actress Florence Kaye. He was the 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. His godfather was his father's friend and fellow composer, William Walton. His godmother was Margot Fonteyn, the prima ballerina who danced for Constant's company, the Royal Ballet, and with whom Constant had an affair causing him to leave Lambert's mother. Home life was difficult for Lambert who was sent to live with his grandmother at a young age. When he was 16, his father died at the age of 45.
Career in film and music
After studying history at Trinity College, Oxford, Lambert briefly served as an officer in the British Army; he was stationed in Hong Kong. After his service, in May 1961, he joined an expedition with two Oxford friends, Richard Mason and John Hemming, in an attempt to discover the source of the Iriri River in the Amazon. Lambert hoped to film the expedition as a documentary. On 3 September, Mason was killed by an uncontacted Amazon tribe known as the Panará while he was alone hunting for food. Lambert was initially arrested 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. After returning to the United Kingdom, Lambert became an assistant director (AD) on the films The Guns of Navarone, From Russia with Love, and The L-Shaped Room which is where he met fellow AD, Chris Stamp brother of actor Terence Stamp.
Soon after, he and Stamp decided to make a documentary that would show the behind-the-scenes life of a pop group. The band they chose was The High Numbers (known previously, and again afterwards, as The Who). Lambert and Stamp began filming concerts of the group, but eventually abandoned the idea of the documentary, deciding instead to become The Who's managers, even though they had no experience managing a group. After the band was turned down by EMI, Lambert and Stamp signed them up with Shel Talmy, who had produced The Kinks hits, and whose company had an output deal through Decca Records in the UK. Lambert eventually replaced Talmy as the group's producer in 1966, starting with "I'm a Boy," which reached number two on the UK singles chart.
In 1967, Lambert and Stamp established their own independent record label, Track Record, one of the first of its kind, signing up various new artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Brown (producing his No. 1 single, "Fire", and parent album The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968), Thunderclap Newman, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Golden Earring. In 1968, they set up offices in New York and signed Labelle, whose first album Lambert produced, and The Parliaments. The label initially proved very lucrative for the duo but due to fiscal mismanagement and ongoing conflicts with The Who it soon fell into debt and was dissolved in 1978.
Ever since the beginning of their working relationship Lambert had been trying to convince Pete Townshend to move away from simple songwriting and compose more mature fare using his troubled childhood as a starting point. Townshend has acknowledged that it was Lambert who influenced him to combine rock music and opera, which led to the creation of the rock opera Tommy. Although The Who were international hitmakers by the late '60s, it was not until the release of Tommy in 1969 that the band became firmly established both creatively and commercially.
While The Who was struggling to articulate Townshend's next concept, Lifehouse (which would eventually be abandoned, and turned into the popular rock album, Who's Next), Lambert began shopping a film version of Tommy without the band's authorization. This led to significant differences between Lambert and the group.
Despite this, in 1973, Townshend reached out to Lambert, asking him to help with the recording of Quadrophenia, but Lambert's drug abuse and the allegations of missing funds stalled efforts at a reconciliation. After litigation was initiated for unpaid royalties, both Lambert and Stamp were fired in 1974 and replaced by Bill Curbishley, who still manages the band. They officially ended their partnership with the band two years later. On 22 January 1977, The Who settled their lawsuit against Lambert and Stamp at an office on Poland Street. Townshend received a $1-million settlement of his U.S. copyrights to date and The Who gained rights to all their recordings from "Substitute" onwards.
Ward of court
At the peak of his success Lambert owned a flat in Knightsbridge, London, and Palazzo Dario on the Grand Canal in Venice, where he was known as Baron Lambert. Lambert claimed that he was conceived in Venice and hence was connected to the city. His neighbour was the heiress and renowned Modern Art collector, Peggy Guggenheim, with whom Lambert was rumoured to be romantically linked. However, back in the UK his excessive drug use brought him to the attention of the British police and he was arrested and charged with possession of heroin. As a defence, and one rarely used, a lawyer convinced Lambert to become a Ward of the Court of Protection whereby he would avoid drug charges and a potential prison sentence while an Official Solicitor would take charge of his affairs. As a ward Kit would be provided with a small weekly stipend out of his own money to live on amounting to approximately £150/week. This, even though royalties from the albums that Lambert produced for the Who and Hendrix were steadily increasing each year.
Book and final days
In 1980, Lambert, assisted by journalist John Lindsay, began writing an autobiography, detailing how he discovered The Who. It included many never-before-told stories about his contemporaries The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Brian Epstein, and Jimi Hendrix, and friends like Princess Margaret and Liberace. However, days before Lambert was to sign a publishing deal, the publisher was contacted by the Official Solicitor in charge of Lambert's life, who stated that all revenues from the sale of the book had to be paid to the court, which would then dole them out to Lambert. That was the beginning of Lambert's downward spiral, increasing his dependence on drugs and alcohol.
Three years later, Lambert died of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs. On the night of his death, he was seen drinking heavily at a popular Kensington gay nightclub, El Sombrero where, according to many including Townshend, he was beaten up by a drug dealer over an unpaid debt, which contributed to his fall and death. In his autobiography Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Guy, record producer Tony Visconti stated: "He [Lambert] was already in advanced stages of whatever. He died when a coke dealer pushed him downstairs." Lambert was cremated and his ashes interred in Brompton Cemetery, London, in the grave of his father, paternal grandfather, and grandmother.
By 2018, his original inscription on the family headstone – "Christopher Sebastian 'Kit' Lambert – Son of Constant 1935–1981 Creative Musician" – was virtually unreadable. Nick Salaman, a friend since they were at university, wrote in the Friends of Brompton Cemetery magazine: "He was more than a creative musician. And who was this Christopher Sebastian Lambert? Did anyone know or care about his full name? An idea popped in my mind to put up a new gravestone that spelt out exactly who Kit was and what he was famous for." A new stone, paid for by Salaman, and Kit's only surviving relative, his half-sister Annie, was added to the bottom in place of the original one. Unveiled in a ceremony at midday on 12 June 2018, it is inscribed: "Also Constant's son, Kit Lambert, 1935–1981, The man who made The Who".
The Lamberts biography
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, which won the Somerset Maugham Award literary prize in 1986. The tapes made by Lindsay of Lambert's interviews were several hours in length and became an important historical reference both of the era of pop and rock music as well as of Lambert's own tumultuous life. On the tapes he dispelled some of the popular rumours that he had purposely perpetuated himself to generate publicity about his charges. However, Lambert's methods in promoting groups like The Who were far more eccentric and stranger than popularly believed. The two remaining members of The Who, Townshend and Roger Daltrey, have always acknowledged Lambert as a major influence on the band's success, along with his business partner Chris Stamp. After his death his estate was worth over £490,000 and the royalties that have flowed in from his various works to his heirs have totaled over £1 million.
In 2014, an American documentary film was made about Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp entitled Lambert & Stamp. It was produced and directed by James D. Cooper. It had its world premiere at 2014 Sundance Film Festival on 20 January 2014.
In 2012, independent producer Orian Williams announced he was producing a biopic on 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 taped material recorded by Lindsay.
- Napier-Bell, Simon (1997). "Kit Lambert". Sunday Times magazine. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
- Perry, Jann (2004). "Equally Home on the Range - A Review of Margot Fonteyn". The Observer. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Vulliamy, Ed (2010). "Jimi Hendrix – You Never Told Me He was That Good". The Observer. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Live at Monterey DVD
- Egan, Sean (2017). "Interview: How The Who Salvaged Who's Next from the Lifehouse Wreckage". Teamrock.com. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Hughes, Rob (2016). "The Who: How We Made Quadrophenia". Teamrock.com. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Kent, Matthew (2000). "The Who This Month". Thewhothismonth.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- "Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982 by George Gimarc". Backbeat Books (1 August 2005). Retrieved 28 January 2017.
- Visconti, Tony, Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy, Harper Collins, London, 2007
- "Trinity College Report 2015/16, ed. Tom Knollys (Alumni Relations Officer)" (PDF). Trinity College, Oxford. p. 42.
- Friends of Brompton Cemetery Magazine issue No. 62 Autumn 2018
- Motion, Andrew. The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit (1986)
- "Lambert & Stamp || A Sony Pictures Classics Release". Sonyclassics.com. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- "Arts - Lambert & Stamp: The men who made The Who". BBC. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
- Billboard magazine – Dec 7, 1968
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Jun 30, 1979
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Dec 3, 1979
- Toledo Blade – Apr 8, 1981
- Lambert & Stamp review March 28, 2015
- Kingsport Post - Nov 4, 1971
- Lambert & Stamp documentary – Sony Classics
- The Guardian on Lambert & Stamp
- Mojo Music on Lambert & Stamp
- IMDb on Lambert & Stamp
- The Hollywood Reporter on Lambert & Stamp
- Allmusic.com Kit Lambert biography
- The Guardian Music on Lambert & Stamp
- Mojo Magazine Just Backdated by Chris Charlesworth
- The Stranger on Lambert & Stamp