Managing the Who was a means to an end: Who knew? Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp wanted to make a movie and figured it should be about something, so they designed a superstar rock band. As James D. Cooper’s sprawling documentary reveals, this was a daunting and thrilling prospect in war-scarred, class-stratified England of the ’60s.
What it takes to produce a great quartet of gear-smashing mod rockers is this: on the one hand, a gay, Oxford-educated son of a composer, and on the other, yes, the kid brother to the future General Zod. (Terence Stamp does pop up here, essentially to affirm Chris’ East End street-tough credentials.)
And so we see Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey’s long journey from scuzzy London dives to Kennedy Center honors. Along the way came casualties, including bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle — and eventually Lambert and Stamp.
Townshend is the movie’s most lucid raconteur, but Cooper lets in many voices. At times, it feels a little like being cornered by some geezer rock snob at a party—just when a song you like comes on, he’s all, “Interesting story about this one…” Some of the stories are interesting, absolutely, but after a few, you want to say, “Hey, think we could just listen to the music for a sec?” But then what would a Who movie be without some excess noise?