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Monday 18 November 2019

Chris Stamp

Co-manager of The Who and Jimi Hendrix who embraced the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle of his stars

Chris Stamp, who died last Saturday aged 70, helped launch The Who in the mid-Sixties, identifying in them the potential to be as incendiary – and thus successful – as The Rolling Stones; he was also the brother of the actor Terence Stamp.

His co-manager was Kit Lambert, the gay, wild, Oxford-educated son of the composer Constant Lambert. Stamp, by contrast, had once been described as an East End hard case looking for a fight, and could have opted to trim The Who's more outrageous excesses with some down-to-earth common sense.

Instead, stunned by the group's musical power, he lost no time in encouraging them.

Stamp saw the potency of the group's self-destructive streak as he watched the volatile guitarist Pete Townshend and drummer Keith Moon wreck their equipment live on stage. "They smashed through the door of rock-and-roll," noted one admiring musician, "leaving rubble and not much else for the rest of us to lay claim to."

Nor did their records disappoint. With Townshend's thundering opening riff and lead singer Roger Daltrey's searing lyric of teenage angst, The Who's first hit single, I Can't Explain, in 1965 led to a spot playing live on the television show Ready, Steady, Go! and a weekly residency at the Marquee Club, in Soho, London, which cemented their reputation as the country's pre-eminent Mod band.

Both Stamp and Lambert lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle as much as their proteges, but at the outset neither knew anything about pop music. "They were a couple of chancers who became fashionable in the era of Swinging London and who made and lost fortunes," observed the pop writer Ray Connolly.

Stamp's background, like Lambert's, lay in film. His older brother, Terence, had rocketed to fame as an actor. But when Chris first set eyes on The Who (then called the High Numbers), he was still a small-time assistant director.

Less flamboyant and earthier than his partner Lambert, Stamp was financially naive but understood the gay world (which constituted a large raft of the pop music Establishment) and applied streetwise savvy and self-possession to their professional partnership.

It was Stamp who first recognised the potential of The Who's smash hit My Generation (1965) when Townshend played him the demo.

Having propelled the band to the forefront of the nation's consciousness, Stamp and Lambert set about living the lives of their stars, enjoying the abundance of sex and associated pleasures. "We were out to lunch," Stamp admitted.

When, in 1972, an audit by Daltrey revealed an enormous black hole in The Who's finances, Stamp was dismayed. "None of [the money] had actually gone missing," he recalled. "It just wasn't in the books." Over the years various members of the group had physically grabbed huge bundles of cash for drugs, drink and women – "Years of madness on the road," Stamp explained, "smashed cars and paid-off chicks."

In 1966, Stamp and Lambert co-founded the Track Records label and signed Jimi Hendrix, whose single, Purple Haze (1967), was followed by an equally successful album, Are You Experienced? From 1968, Stamp was executive producer of most of The Who's albums and film projects.

But by the mid-Seventies, Stamp and Lambert's relationship with the group was breaking down in a chaotic whirl of legal and financial wrangles and cocaine use. "They lived like rock stars, too," Pete Townshend told Billboard last year."

When The Who eventually fired the pair, Stamp remained in New York.

In 1987, Stamp enrolled on a drug rehab programme. He began to study experimental therapies, specialising in psychodrama treatment and addiction counselling.

One of six children of a tugboat captain, Christopher Thomas Stamp was born in London on July 7, 1942, into a working-class East End family. On leaving school he started work in the theatre as a prop man. Stamp moved into films, and met Kit Lambert at Shepperton Studios.

In July 1964, Lambert saw a "satanic" pop group called the High Numbers playing. Stamp then watched the band in action at the Trade Union Hall, Watford. "It was like a black Mass," he recalled. "Even then, Pete Townshend was doing all that electronic feedback stuff. Keith Moon was going wild on the drums. The effect on the audience was tremendous. It was as if they were in a trance . . . awestruck."

Both Stamp and Lambert recognised the group's enormous potential. They formed a company, New Action, to sign and manage the group.

Having persuaded the band to change their name to The Who, Stamp and Lambert worked to emphasise the band's Mod image, and encouraged still more mayhem in their performances.

At Track Records Stamp produced The Who's Magic Bus album in 1968, and was executive producer on the album Tommy (1969); Who's Next (1971); Quadrophenia (1973); and the soundtrack for the 1975 Tommy feature film.

The group finally parted with them in 1977.

Stamp later qualified as a counsellor in mental health, alcoholism and substance abuse, and as an experimental therapist and an auricular acupuncture detox specialist.

Chris Stamp is survived by his wife of 22 years, Calixte; and two daughters from his first marriage, to Sally Burgess.

Sunday Independent

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