CLICK to go to WHATSGOINGONCLICK to go to REVIEWSCLICK to go to MAIN PAGECLICK to go to QUICK CVCLICK to BUY ON LINECLICK to go to MANAGMENTsimonnapierbell.com

KIT LAMBERT

Written for the the Sunday Times magazine 1997

One day in 1977 Kit Lambert called unexpectedly - it had been some two years since we'd last spoken.

"I need your help. I'm in Mexico. You'll have to come at once."

He didn't sound like a person who needed help. His voice had the clipped authority of an army officer. Even though I knew him well I was taken aback by his bossiness. "I'm sorry Kit. I've got a leaking bank account, a nagging accountant, and a rock group to manage. I'm too busy."

He was quiet for a second, then said something quite out of character, "Please!"

When I arrived in Mexico he was bubbling with high spirits. "We're going to have a great weekend. It's all arranged."

It was not what I expected from someone who had just asked me to fly six thousand miles because he needed help.

Outside the airport the air was steaming hot but Kit had an air-conditioned limousine waiting. Two minutes later we were sitting in cool silence watching a soundless travelogue outside the car window. Suddenly Kit's extraordinary laugh began, like a racing car revving up with little throaty bursts that slowly built to a full-throttled roar. It was highly infectious and in a few seconds we were both in helpless fits. I think it was just the pleasure of seeing each other again.

After we'd exhausted ourselves Kit launched into one of his monologues. `How he loved Mexico. The vitality, the heat, the sweat. The attitude of the people, their energy, their resolve, their beauty. But the Americans were ruining it...

"They barge in here and take their pleasures on the cheap. They treat it like a discount holiday camp. It's just as well there's not a war nearby. If there was they'd be sending hordes of servicemen for 'Rest and Recreation' like they did in Thailand during the Vietnam war. Dammit, that's not war - it's a game. In a real war you don't get rest and recreation. You stay with the blood and bombs and fight it out."

Kit could go one like this for hours. A chaotic flow of personal prejudice delivered in precise upper-class English with hypnotic enthusiasm.

He was still in full flow when we came to the end of the airport road and hit the bustling city streets. In the halting traffic unwashed children ran from car to car selling bedraggled bunches of flowers. "These poor kids. They come from the countryside. This year they're selling flowers, next year it'll be their bodies. Then it's all downhill. Unofficial tourist guides, shoe-shine boys, pimps for other children. Eventually defeated they go back to their villages and live in poverty."

At last he paused so I changed the subject. "Kit - on the phone you said you wanted help."

His face twitched and his body tensed as if I'd just insulted him. "I most certainly did not," he said defiantly. "I merely asked if you'd care to join me for a relaxing weekend."

I said, "Don't be such a prick. You're lucky to have friends who'll come rushing across the world when you need them. Now tell me what the problem is."

He drew himself up haughtily. "Now look here, I invited you for the weekend. I met you in a limousine, arranged your hotel and planned to buy you dinner. I don't wish to be insulted. You can get out now if you want."

He tapped on the chauffeur's partition. "Stop at once! Mister Napier-Bell wishes to get out."

For a moment I was angry enough to go. But I couldn't forget how we'd been laughing a few minutes before, so I pulled myself together. "Kit, I'm sorry, I must have misunderstood."

"Yes!" he said arrogantly. "You must have done!"

For five minutes there was an awful silence. The car pushed its way through the traffic and Kit sat staring straight in front of him, frozen. Then his body crumpled and he closed his eyes. When he opened them again they'd lost their humour, their arrogance and their confidence. "I'm in an awful fucking mess," he said. "My friends want me to declare myself insane."

I was shocked speechless. Kit was a model of sanity, and if he sometimes acted a trifle crazy that was because he was bored, or lonely, or bottled up, or because life was too dull, or maybe just too long. But most certainly NOT because he was insane.

I asked, "Whatever your problems are, surely you could sort them out without having to say you're mad?"

He shook his head sadly. "It's the money, you see. It's been flowing out like the spring tide. On drugs and boys and lovers; on houses and penthouses; on chauffeurs and cars; on Chateau Lafitte and jars of Beluga. My friends say I'm incapable of running my own affairs. They say I should make myself a ward of the court, and I've decided they're right."

As the limousine arrived at the hotel he seemed to buck up. "Anyway, what I neeed from you is some good company for a last fling. Are you up to it?"

I didn't know if I was. Kit had just made me feel desperately depressed. Now he wanted me to forget the whole thing and have a great time. He always expected everyone to crank their emotions up and down in time with his own. I tried to smile. "OK. Let's enjoy oursleves."

"Marvellous!" he said. "I've got it all planned. We're starting with dinner at Fouquet and I've ordered the wine already."

Kit's father was Constant Lambert. In the Twenties, he and William Walton were considered Britain's two leading composers. They were friends too, and Walton became Kit's godfather. At nineteen Constant Lambert had become the first British composer to write a ballet score for Diaghilev and in 1928 he had an enormous success with his work `The Rio Grande' which blended classical music with influences of contemporary jazz, particularly that of Duke Ellington.

But Constant was as famous for his provocative wit as he was for his music, and eventually his most celebrated work was not a musical composition, it was a book of criticism called "Music Ho!" in which he discussed the possibility of bridging the cultural gap between European classicism and Black American music.

Constant Lambert was a prototype for Kit: emotionally volatile, easily bored, sexually ambivalent and irresistbly drawn to self-destruction. When his lover Christopher Wood fell under a train in 1930, Constant married Kit's mother. Immediately afterwards he started an affair with Margot Fonteyn.

Kit's childhood took place against the resulting background of bitterness. When he was ten his parents separated and he was sent to boarding school. His mother re-married and from then on family life meant school-holidays with her and her new husband.

Meanwhile his father's life deteriorated in every way. When Constant Lambert's creative flow dried up, he filled the gap with alcohol. Even so, for five years he struggled to create another major work and finally completed a new ballet, `Tiresias'. He was convinced he'd created a piece that would link classical music with jazz.

`Tiresias' was performed at Covent Garden on July the 9th, 1951. Instead of finding his reputation revived as he had hoped, Constant Lambert suffered outright scorn from the critics. His drinking went out of control and six week later on August the 21st he was dead, aged forty-five.

For Kit, at fifteen, the impact of this influenced all his future thinking. His father had frequently visited his son at boarding school and shared his musical ideas. Kit had been achingly keen to see his father succeed with this new ballet. The disaster that followed its unsuccessful debut gave Kit the direction for his own life. He defended his wounded emotions by persuading himself that his father's cycle of success and failure was to be admired. That in the light of the critic's abuse of `Tiresias', his father's ability to drink himself to death in six weeks was some sort of triumphant exit.

Kit once told me, "Just to succeed in life is banal to the point of failure. The purpose of success is to have something substantial to wreck. And the ultimate triumph is to create a magnificent disaster."

Later, this philosophy gave the Who their stage act. Every evening at the height of their performance, the group smashed their instruments. Most critics saw it as anarchy or an incitement to violence, but it wasn't that at all - it was musical suicide.

At the moment when the group had the greatest rapport with their audience, they destroyed their means to communicate with them. It was Kit Lambert's glamourised stage version of his father's alcoholic death.

But Kit's admiration of his father's self-destruction had been a child's way of defending his emotions. More than anything, what he really wanted was to create something that would in some way save his father's reputation.

I first met Kit in 1966 when I was producing a rock special for American TV. I'd booked enough well-known groups and I needed some up-and-coming ones. Someone suggested the Who and gave me Kit's number. Kit and I clicked immediately. He'd only just got into the rock business having teamed up with Chris Stamp, (the brother of Terence Stamp). Together they'd gone looking for a group and had found the High Numbers playing in a pub on a stage made of beer crates. The group had an energetic act and a singer with crossed teeth.

Kit decided this was the raw material he'd been looking for. He offered them twenty pounds a week and changed their name to the Who because that's what everyone said when he told them he had a group called the High Numbers.

In the weekly struggle to pay their wages, Kit sold his furniture and even some of his clothes. And to pay for Roger's Daltry's teeth to be fixed, he pawned his cuff-links - the only thing he had left of any value. But it was worth it. In the group he'd found soul-mates for the two different sides of his personality. His explosions of fun and anger triggered similar behaviour in Keith Moon while his underlying emotional insecurity touched a creative nerve in Pete Townsend.

The initial result of this dual rapport was the destruction of the groups' equipment at the end of each gig. First, Keith slung his drums across the stage in manic exhilaration, then Pete vented his pent-up frustrations by smashing his guitar. For musicians and audience alike it was a cathartic experience; but for a new group short of funds it was a desperately expensive habit.

Kit was determined to make the Who the biggest rock group in the world. He used to tell me about endless fantastic schemes he had in mind. He was slightly jealous that I was managing the Yardbirds, already one of the world's top groups; but I was equally envious of what he was doing with the Who. I didn't feel creatively responsible for the Yardbird's success; I'd taken over their management after they were already established. Listening to Kit, I became fascinated with the idea of starting a new group from scratch.

He was unrepentantly posh! Unlike other ex-public school boys in the music-business, Kit didn't tone down his accent. He'd been to Lancing and Oxford and served as an officer during his National Service. At school and university he'd excelled in debating and afterwards he'd gone on an expedition to Brasil with the Royal Geographical Society. They intended to find the source of the Iriri River, but the expedition was a disaster. They were attacked by cannibals and Kit's best friend was killed.

It was difficult to connect Kit, the effete hedonist, with an intrepid jungle explorer. His personality was a tangle of conflicting characteristics, one of which was a changing attitude towards his own homosexuality. Sometimes he was surprisingly cautious about it - other times he seemed far too up front.

Once, we were in the back of a taxi when Kit's head spun round at the sight of someone outside the window. He immediately leapt forward and banged on the window behind the cab-driver's head. "Stop! Stop at once. I want to fuck that young man!"

I never knew if Kit did these things out of pure spontaneity or just to embarass his friends. In this case it resulted in our standing in the rain for half-an-hour looking for another cab.
Soon after I met Kit, the Who started to have their first hits. When the money came in Kit immediately spent it on new instruments to smash on stage. He was always broke. One morning I bumped into him leaving his flat with a record-player. At first he said he was going to get it fixed; then he admitted he was going to pawn it to pay the group their weekly money. If he didn't, he'd be in danger of a visit from John Entwhistle's mother whom he used to refer to as the group's shop-steward.

There was plenty of laughter when Kit was around but emotionally he was always totally up or totally down. He delighted in things going wrong and liked nothing more than to sit over dinner laughing outrageously at his most recent failures. Even in the sixties, he was already heavily into drugs.

He would wake himself every morning with a sniff of coke. In the taxi on the way to work he would swig from a bottle of brandy and when he arrived at the office he would light a joint. He kept two cocktail dishes on his desk - uppers in one, downers in the other.
He took them alternately, depending what mood was required for each incoming phone call, but despite these excesses Kit excelled at management and promotion.

In the process of pushing the Who, he often got into terrible disputes. The group's first record was produced by American record-producer Shel Talmy. Kit hated the mundane pop quality of the production, and although he'd never produced a record himself, he insisted HE would produce the next one. Talmy wouldn't give way, but foolishly he lent Kit his chauffeur-driven Rolls to come to the studio and discuss the matter. The next day Kit proudly told everyone that he'd managed to make thirty-seven cigarette burns in the car's leather upholstery during the journey. Shel was so incensed he refused to talk to Kit ever again and told him he could do whatever he wanted to do with the group.

Another time, after a major argument with someone in America, Kit wanted to send a telegram full of four-letter words. The office-boy came back from the post-office saying they'd refused to send it. Kit flew into a fury, grabbed the telegram and rushed out of the office. He wasn't seen again until the next day.

"I went to Athens," he explained, "and sent it from there."

This sort of behaviour was close to the adolescent rebellion the Who expressed on stage. Kit pushed them to get it into their songs, and eventually they did, with `My Generation'....
"People try to put us down, just because we get around. Why don't you all fff... fff... fff... fade away."

A year after that I was in Germany with Kit. He'd just finished the group's new single and had an acetate of it, so we went to a record-store and borrowed a listening booth. I was amazed.

The Who's destructive stage act was growing more and more famous, but this record had no aggression at all. It was gentle and melodic with pretty harmonies and a french horn. Even the title was soft - 'Pictures of Lily'.

I asked Kit, "Won't this damage the Who's image?"

"Never!" he insisted. "Violence and outrage look good on stage but they don't sound good on record. We can only make the occasional record that's tough; the rest have to be pretty little pop songs."

Then he burst into his racing car laugh and confided, "Anyway, the song is about masturbation."

In a short time, with a combination of extravagant hype and deft creativity Kit and the Who acheived international success. Two years after I'd caught him pawning his record-player, Kit was traveling the world in limousines and hotel suites - an itinerant rock emperor.

He was pleased with himself but still driven to excess in everything he did. At the same time, the Who had begun to realise they needed a more conservative style of management. They had international success in their grasp and they wanted to hold onto it. Kit couldn't agree that they should simply consolidate their position.

For him, success still meant somehow salvaging his father's failed reputation. It was while these rumblings of disagreement were beginning between them that Kit suddenly got the idea for `Tommy'.

When he first outlined it to the Who they laughed. A rock group creating an opera and playing it in one of the world's greatest opera houses; it wasnt possible. Even Pete Townsend, Kit's greatest fan within the group was seriously doubtful. But for Kit, once the thought had occured to him, it became an obsession. What better way to revenge the shameful savaging of his father by the music critics. The idea soon became his entire existence.

To the group, Kit acted as an extraordinary catalyst. He drove them to find creativity within themselves that was beyond their own expectations. But although they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the creation of the music, Kit was still faced with the extraordinarily difficult task of convincing everyone else, from the record-company to the opera establishment. Everywhere, he met with entrenched resistance. But he was relentless, and he succeeded.

`Tommy' was first performed at the New York Met. It was lauded by the critics and released on record. Kit had finally revenged his father's defeat.

From then on life became an eternal anti-climax. Kit could never again find something to drive him with the same ferocity, and as his ability to focus on clear objectives diminished, his terror of boredom increased. As did his drug-taking.

When Kit asked me to go to Mexico, I hadn't seen him for a year. We often lost touch like that and it never seemed to matter. But on the drive from the airport I'd seen something new in him. I'd never before seen him ready to give up and accept fate. But when we reached the restaurant, he was back in top form again. He was dressed smartly and buzzing with joie de vivre - or perhaps it was coke.

Fouquet was an extravagant place with as many staff hovering around as there were customers.

"I have it all planned," Kit told me. "We're starting with a bottle of Chasagne Montrachet and a dozen Belon oysters each. Then we're having a bottle of 72 Lafitte."

He glanced at me for approval and asked "What would you like to eat with that?"

Before I could study the menu he was off again. "We'll have the Pyrenees lamb. They fly it in fresh every day, like the oysters. Nowadays, you never have to feel just 'cos you're in a certain country you have to eat their food. My favourite Mexican restaurant is in Paris. And here in Mexico, this is my favourite French one."

This was Kit in bossy restaurant mode, something I hadn't seen for years. The last time we'd had dinner together it had been dreadful. It was at Savini in Milan. Before the meal he'd taken two bottles of pills out of his pocket and told, "If I get too noisy give me a white one; if I look like falling asleep give me a blue one." Then he came back from the toilet with white powder round his nose and passed out face down in a plate of fetuccine.

Now, sitting in the luxurious surroundings of Fouquet, I watched him deal with the wine waiter with expertise.

"What are you thinking?" Kit asked suddenly.

I came straight out with it, "Have you managed to give up drugs?"

Kit was totally dismissive. "Of course not! Why should I? And what's it to do with you?"

I shrugged.

"But...," he explained with a giggle. "I do have it wonderfully under control." He gestured round the table, at the fine china, the wine, the beautiful decor, as if to say, `You see! I've proved it possible.You CAN do drugs and still lead a civilised life.'

The Montrachet came. He stuck his nose in the glass for a full ten seconds, sipped it suspiciously and puckered his lips into a distasteful kiss.

"Wonderful!" he pronounced. But then, almost as a punch-line, he got out his bottles of pills. "You remember these, don't you? The blue ones perk me up; the white ones calm me down."

I avoided his eyes and looked round the restaurant. He seemed unaware of my disaproving reaction and scooped up a large oyster. "I'm going to be murdered," he said.

After the failure of `Tiresias', Constant Lambert opted for dramatic self-destruction. After the success of `Tommy', his son took the same option. Kit's love of extravagance was matched equally with a passion for seediness. His love of fine wine was balanced by an addiction to drugs of every sort. His obsession with beautifully mannered young men was partnered by a manic lust for the worst behaved male hustlers. He spent his days in lavish hotel suites and his nights in degenerate dives surrounded by rent-boys and junkies.

In New York he always stayed at the Navarro Hotel. He would take a suite overlooking Central Park. The fridge would be filled with drugs and the rooms with boys. After a few days it would get too much for him, but rather than throw these people out he would simply call the front desk and book himself into another suite. If he stayed in New York long enough, Kit and his casually acquired friends would sometimes occupy every suite in the hotel.

Kit had created real money for himself; hed not only been the Who's manager, hed also produced their records, including the album of `Tommy'. And he also had his own record-label - Track Records.

The first signing had been Jimmy Hendrix, who became even more celebrated than the Who, and the second was Thunderclap Newman.

Then Track Records had a UK Number One record with Arthur Brown's "Fire". Kit tried to persuade Atlantic Records to pay him a million dollar advance for it. When they refused, he spent a month shipping records to the US and storing them strategically in distribution centres throughout the country. Then he paid for an independent promotion campaign and without even having a US deal he got the record into the Top 100. It had never been done before and Atlantic relented and gave him the contract he wanted. It didn't matter to Kit that he'd already blown most of the money pulling off the coup.

Business-wise, Kit failed to move with the times. In the Seventies, the music-industry began to sober up, it became less amused by this type of stunt. Kit's craziness began to look outmoded and the respectability he had got from `Tommy' soon disappeared. He began to be seen as unreliable and eccentric.

But Kit failed to notice. He was hooked on heroin and taking almost every other drug too. He was out of control, and the Who decided to go elsewhere for management.
Kit struggled unsuccessfully to find a new act to launch, but his manic style worked against him. Once, when one of his records was not played on the BBC, he raided the building, found the DJ responsible and locked him in a cupboard five minutes before he was due to start his show.

Another time Kit descended on an old friend who was the managing director of Polydor Records and insisted on taking him to lunch. His friend was busy and waved at a pile of papers, "I can't go now. Look at all that correspondence."

Kit told him, "That's easily dealt with." And he slung it out the window.

In the Sixties things like that made you a legend. In the Seventies they made you a bloody nuisance. But Kit couldn't cool down. Stories of his craziness were endless. He hired the QueenMary for a promotion party in New York and supplied a different drug on every deck. He holidayed for a month in Mexico and forgot that he'd left two stretch limos on twenty-four hour call outside the Navarro Hotel in New York. At Sardi's he set the lampshades on fire to attract the waiters' attention. And he loved to walk into hustler bars with the tip of a thousand dollar bill protruding from his half-zipped flies.

Kit bought himself a palace in Venice; the Palazzio Dario. For him, this was the ultimate high. He filled it with paintings and fine furniture and re-titled himself Il Baroni Lambert. One day I bumped into him into him in Milan. Hed just bought a Louis Quinze commode for a quarter of a million dollars. It seemed a lot of money for something people didn't use much these days, but Kit was thrilled with it. He invited me to a party at the palace.

The party was as bizarre as anything Fellini could have devised. A non-stop chain of gondolas ferried guests across the canal in tails and ball-gowns. Amid chandeliers and champagne, extinct royalty and La Scala opera stars mingled with street kids from Mestre who turned up popping pills and smoking joints. And Peggy Guggenheim dropped in from the palace next door.

Around midnight, Kit leapt into the Grand Canal in his dinner jacket and swam to the other side. When he came back he shouted, "Help me out", but some of the guests called back, "No! Stay there."

He clambered out anyway, stripped off his suit and wandered round the party in bright red Y-fronts dripping dirty canal water over the social elite of Venice.

A few months later I heard that part of the palace had gone up in flames. This was a normal event anywhere Kit was staying. His habit of smoking in bed had destroyed flats and hotel rooms everywhere, including a suite at the Navarro. Later on, his magnificent London house in Egerton Street was burnt to the ground destroying everything he treasured most. Some people thought it upset Kit more than anything else that ever happened to him. But maybe it didn't. No-one really knew. Seemingly unperturbed, Kit simply moved into the basement and spent the next twelve months sleeping on a camp bed.

In Mexico, at Fouquet, the red wine came and Kit repeated his extravagant wine-tasting act. Then I asked him who was going to murder him and why, and at last he got down to telling me about his problems.

"I can't afford to run Palazzio Dario; the house in Egerton Crescent has burned down, and to be honest, I don't have the self-control to look after my own money. There'd be enough to go round if I had someone to dole the money out sensibly - a benign uncle maybe, or even an understanding accountant, but I don't have either. So Daria Shouvaloff has suggested I make myself a ward of the court. And it's not such a bad idea. There's probably enough money around to keep me the rest of my life. After all, the palace in Venice is worth half a million, and I'll go on getting royalties from `Tommy' and the Who's records."

"But it seems so extreme to have to declare yourself insane."

"It's not really insane," Kit assured me. "It's sort of..."

His eyes sparkled mischieviously as he searched for the right word.
"...terminally irresponsible."

Finding the right words activated the reving-up mechanism at the bottom of his throat and in a few seconds we were both laughing uncontrollably again.

I asked him: "What about this murder?"

"I owe people for drugs. I never have enough cash to pay them in full but because there's always more coming they agree to give me credit. But when I make myself a ward-of-court I won't be able to pay off the back bill. And one of these drug people found out what I was planning and told me he'd kill me."

"Are you afraid?" I asked.

"Fuck me, YES! Wouldn't you be?"

This time he didn't burst into laughter but sat silently looking into his wine. Then he lifted the edge of the table-cloth and stuck his head underneath it.

I thought, `Maybe he is mad after all. Hiding from reality under a table-cloth. I've seen it in movies about mental homes.'

Then Kit burst out from behind the table-cloth with white dust round his nostrils, laughing full-throttle.

"Let's forget the rest of dinner. It's too boring. Waiter! Check please!"

He threw a wad of cash onto the table and whirled us out of the restaurant and into the limo. We shot across town to the narrow streets of the Zona Rosa and five minutes later we were going up a narrow staircase in a derelict building underneath a blinking neon `Coke' sign.

At the top of the dirty stairs a prim middle-aged man was sitting neatly behind a desk that prevented easy access. He looked like a tetchy immigration officer with lipstick.

"What time does the show start?" Kit asked.

"Soon, my dears. But you must pay."

Kit flung some pesos on the table. Then he excused himself and went through a small door on the far side of the landing, leaving me to push my way into the bar. It was loud, dark and dirty. The clientele were young and old, but not in between. Under twenty or over forty, All male.

Kit came bubbling back from his secret room. Whatever it was he'd taken in there had sent him into a high of twitchy excitement. He pointed to a swarthy-looking boy in tight jeans, "I'm definitely having THAT later."

By the time we'd got ourselves a drink the immigration officer from the top of the stairs had changed into a frock and become the Mistress Of Ceremonies.

"Now we have our show. The big cock contest. El Pollo Grande!"

A single spotlight shone on the small platform where she stood. A young hustler from the crowd climbed up alongside her amd pushed his crotch forwards. Amid whistles and catcalls, Miss Immigration unzipped his flies pulled out what was inside.

"Siete!" she announced. "Seven out of ten. Does anyone want to feel it?"

An assortment of hands stetched upwards towards the stage, and then the second contestant arrived.

"My dears," Miss Immigration squawked. "We call this young man Senor Boomerang."

She let rip with a hideous cackle and the club errupted into wolf-whistles.

Kit hustled me downstairs.

"Now I'll take you to a straight club."

He was still exuberating crazily, and two minutes later we were clambering down a metal staircase to a seedy basement. This place seemed more difficult to get into one than the previous one and Kit entered into urgent conversation with the doorman. But once money had changed hands we were allowed in.

The audience were seated at tables, mostly men, and on the stage two girls were making love to the loudest of distorted music.

I asked, "Can't we go somewhere quieter?"

"I want you to see the donkey act. It starts in ten minutes."

He pushed a handfull of pills into his mouth and cackled with glee.

"No!" I insisted. "It's too loud."

So Kit rushed me back outside, along a street of dimly-lit bars and up another twisting staircase. This time it was a club full of butch girls dressed in leather and studs.

"I want you to meet Mariella," Kit told me. But apparently Mariella wasn't there so he shoved some more powder up his nose and let out a hideous guffaw. He was going out of control.

Five minutes later we'd been slung out. Kit fell in a heap on the sidewalk like an old sack. I tried to pick him up but he was dead weight. Luckily, the limo driver had been following us round town and he helped me sling Kit into the back of the car.

At the hotel, two doormen carried Kit to his room and I went to bed. It was three-thirty.
At eight I was woken by a loud knock on my door. I staggered out of bed and found Kit, showered, clean and immaculate. He was wearing white shorts and a crisply pressed shirt.
"Come on, for God's sake," he shouted. "You've only got one more day here and I want to show you Mexico."

Despite my hangover I managed to be ready in half-an-hour.

For an entire day Kit was the most sparkling of guides. We raced round Mexico City - to the cathedral, to the palace in Chapultepec Park, to the museums, and to the Aztec pyramids twenty miles out of town at Teotihuacan. Kit kept up a non-stop flow of superbly informative chatter, an eight-hour monologue on the history of Mexico.

Watching him that day, I could see none of the effects of drugs or alcohol or the depression that was permanently brewing inside him. Perhaps this brilliant performance was a sign of emerging schizophrenia, or of some other elements of real madness that were developing in his mind.

In the evening, Kit dropped me off at the airport and disappeared with a wave of his hand. The next time I saw him, he'd done it. He was a ward-of-court. Well-meaning civil-servants had sold his palace in Venice, the furniture, the paintings and everything else he owned. All at knock-down prices. They were paying for him to stay in a seedy hotel in South Kensington and every Monday Kit had to go on the underground to a building in Holborn and apply for a handout of 200 pounds of his own money.

And although the drug-dealers hadn't murdered him, they certainly kept supplying him with as many drugs as his 200 pounds a week would pay for.

Between the two days in Mexico and the time he died, I bumped into Kit some ten or fifteen times. Sometimes he was a pathetic figure; sometimes he was just like old times - except he couldn't pay the bill. From having lived the life of a rock emperor, he was reduced to begging in a government office for his own money. Yet without doubt, there was a part of him that enjoyed what he was doing and was pleased with the story-line he'd created with his life.

Finally, one night on drugs, he got into a fight. Badly roughed up, he took a taxi to the flat where his mother was living, old and alone. He asked her for a stiff drink, but seeing how drugged he was, she refused and insisted on helping him up the stairs to bed.
Halfway up the staircase he toppled and fell to the bottom, landing on his head. He died the next day in hospital.

When he died, Kit was forty-seven, two years older than his father had been. Like his father, Kit is remembered more for his wit and his lifestyle than for his contribution to music. Even so, without Kit Lambert there would have been no Who and no `Tommy'.

 

CLICK to return to MAIN PAGE