Kit Lambert

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This article is about the manager of the Who. For the actor, see Christopher Lambert.
Kit Lambert
Birth name Christopher Sebastian Lambert
Also known as Baron Lamberti
Baroni Lamberti
Born (1935-05-11)11 May 1935
Knightsbridge, London, England
Died 7 April 1981(1981-04-07) (aged 45)
Middlesex, England
Occupation(s) Talent manager
Record producer
Record label owner
Years active 1964–1976 manager
1967-1978 label owner
Labels Track Record
Associated acts The Who
Pete Townshend
Roger Daltrey
John Entwistle
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Thunderclap Newman
Crazy World of Arthur Brown
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Labelle
Golden Earring
Marc Bolan
John's Children
The Parliaments
Marsha Hunt
The Merseys
Eire Apparent
Andy Ellison
Fairport Convention
The Heartbreakers
Murray Roman
Shakin' Stevens

Christopher Sebastian "Kit" Lambert (11 May 1935 – 7 April 1981) was a British record producer, record label owner and the manager of The Who.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Kit Lambert was the son of the 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.[1] 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.[2] Home life was difficult for Lambert who was sent to live with his grandmother at a young age. When he was 16, his father whom he hero worshipped, died at the age of 45.

Career in film and music[edit]

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.[3] 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. After returning to the United Kingdom, Lambert became an assistant director 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.

Track Record[edit]

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,[4][5] Arthur Brown (producing his number one single, "Fire," 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.

Tommy and firing[edit]

In 1966, Lambert convinced Pete Townshend to move away from the simple songs of the group's earlier albums and produce more mature fare, encouraging the songwriter to begin composing deeper songs, 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 wasn't until the release of Tommy in 1969 that the band became firmly established both creatively and commercially. However, 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),[6] 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,[7] 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 January 22, 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.[8] In the late 1970s, Lambert worked with some early punk bands including producing a single for the group, Chelsea, under the pseudonym, Kit "The Baron" Lambert. [9]

Ward of court[edit]

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 Lamberti or Baroni Lamberti. Lambert claimed that he was conceived in Venice and hence was connected to the city. His neighbor was the heiress and renowned Modern Art collector, Peggy Guggenheim whom Lambert was rumored to be romantically linked with. 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 defense, 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[edit]

Funerary monument, Brompton Cemetery, London

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. This was the beginning of Lambert's downward spiral, increasing his dependence on drugs and alcohol.

In 1981, Lambert died of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down the stairs of his mother's house. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery, London, alongside his father, paternal grandfather and grandmother.[10] 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.

The Lamberts biography[edit]

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 inheritors have totaled over £1 million.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

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.[11][12]

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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Napier-Bell, Simon (1997). "Kit Lambert". Sunday Times magazine. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Perry, Jann (2004). "Equally Home on the Range - A Review of Margot Fonteyn". The Observer. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  3. ^ Walters, Guy (2015). "The Last Briton Slaughtered by a Lost Tribe". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  4. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (2010). "Jimi Hendrix - You Never Told Me He was That Good". The Observer. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  5. ^ The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Live at Monterey DVD
  6. ^ Egan, Sean (2017). "Interview: How The Who Salvaged Who's Next from the Lifehouse Wreckage". Teamrock.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  7. ^ Hughes, Rob (2016). "The Who: How We Made Quadrophenia". Teamrock.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  8. ^ Kent, Matthew (2000). "The Who This Month". Thewhothismonth.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  9. ^ "Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982 by George Gimarc". Backbeat Books (August 1, 2005). Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  10. ^ "Christopher Sebastian "Kit" Lambert (1935 - 1981) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2015-07-29. 
  11. ^ "Lambert & Stamp || A Sony Pictures Classics Release". Sonyclassics.com. Retrieved 2015-07-29. 
  12. ^ "Arts - Lambert & Stamp: The men who made The Who". BBC. Retrieved 2015-07-29. 

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