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Onstage at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night, The Who’s Roger Daltrey saluted Chris Stamp — one of the two early managers that launched the group’s success — as a man “without whom we wouldn’t be the band we were.”
Stamp — who not only co-managed The Who with the late Kit Lambert but also co-founded the group’s Track Records label and executive produced most of its albums and film projects starting in 1968, died from cancer on Saturday at the age of 70 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Daltrey went on to say that Stamp “flew into the universe on a pair of rainbow wings. Chris, we can never thank you enough — well, I can’t, for what you brought to my life” just before he and Pete Townshend performed a duo rendition of “Tea & Theatre” that, while not specifically dedicated to Stamp, certainly had the quiet and dignified air of a tribute.
Born and raised in London’s East End, Stamp started out as a filmmaker at Shepperton Film Studios, where he met Lambert. The two worked on projects such as I Could Go On Singing, Of Human Bondage and The L-Shaped Room before deciding in 1963 to make a film about the growing British rock scene, meeting The Who, then known as the High Numbers, when the group was playing at the Railway Hotel.
The filmmakers and the musicians became fast friends, and Daltrey referred to Stamp and Lambert as “the fifth and sixth members of The Who,” with Stamp “the expert in cool, menace and scams.” Stamp and Lambert bought out the High Numbers’ then-manager Peter Meaden, persuaded the quartet to re-adopt The Who moniker they’d been using previously and build on its popularity in Britain’s Mod scene. They did make a film about the group — a promotional piece that was sometimes shown before the group took the stage — and encouraged The Who’s early live performance mayhem, even tossing smoke bombs onto the stage themselves.
After The Who’s first two albums, they started Track Records in 1966, though it began with releases of the Jimi Hendrix Experience single “Purple Haze” and the album Are You Experienced?, as well as the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s hit single “Fire” and early efforts by the Dutch band Golden Earring.
Stamp’s first Who production credit was for the Magic Bus album in 1968, and he also executive produced Tommy, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia and the soundtrack for the 1975 Tommy feature film, as well as several Who compilations.
The band’s relationship with both Stamp and Lambert eroded during the mid-70s, however. “They lived like rock stars, too,” Townshend told Billboard last year, “and they really stopped functioning as managers — or the type of managers they had been, and that we still needed.”
The duo and The Who parted ways in 1975, with Stamp and Lambert moving to New York and continuing the Track label, with, among others, Labelle.
Lambert died after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 1981, but Stamp entered rehab in 1987, cleaned up and became a therapist, specializing in psychodrama treatment and addiction counseling in New York. He also re-established and maintained a connection with The Who, appearing in documentaries and writing liner notes for the re-release of the A Quick One album in 1995. He also sat on the board of the John Entwistle Foundation started in memory of the late Who bassist.
The Who posted a message on its official web site calling Stamp’s passing “hard to bear” and promising a tribute would follow. Stamp is survived by Calixte, his wife of 22 years, his two married daughters and several grandchildren.
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