Posts Tagged ‘Brass Ring’

Diverted By The Brass Ring

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Well, something got me thinking this morning about the 1965 film Dr. Zhivago, and I was going to spend some time today sifting through a few versions of Maurice Jarre’s beautiful “Somewhere, My Love,” also known as “Lara’s Theme.”

But that won’t happen today for a number of reasons. Perhaps tomorrow or next week. Because as I dug into Jarre’s work, I got diverted toward the music of the Brass Ring.

As described by ­All-Music Guide, “The Brass Ring was a New York City-based, Herb Alpert-esque outfit from the ’60s, led by reed player Phil Bodner. The group specialized in a short-lived musical style called ‘the Now Sound,’ which was largely instrumental and possessed a looser rhythm than Alpert’s trademark style. The Brass Ring scored several minor hits in the ’60s, their best-known being ‘The Love Theme from the Flight of the Phoenix,’ while another of their songs, ‘The Dis-Advantages of You’ was used in a series of TV commercials for Benson and Hedges cigarettes.”

The Flight of the Phoenix was a 1965 movie – remade in 2004 – about survivors of a plane crash in the Sahara Desert. As the Internet Movie Database notes, “one of the survivors says he’s an airplane designer and they can make a flyable plane from the wreckage.”

I saw the movie with my dad; I know we also saw a movie called Sands of the Kalahari, which is also about a plane crash. That movie, however, is a tribute to Darwinian thought, as one of the crashed passengers decides his odds of survival are better if the other surviving passengers are no longer living. The Flight of the Phoenix was more uplifting, celebrating positive thinking, improvisation and getting the hell out of the desert.

(The title of the associated single – “The Love Theme from the Flight of the Phoenix” – is a bit puzzling, as I don’t recall a love story in the film, or even hints of one, but then, I would have been eleven or twelve years old when Dad took me to see the movie, and that was forty-six years ago. Scanning the cast list this morning, I’m reasonably certain that an actress named Barrie Chase would have accounted for one-half of the love story I didn’t notice, as she’s the only woman listed in the cast at IMDb.)

“The Love Theme from the Flight of the Phoenix” was one of two Top 40 hits for the Brass Ring, peaking at No. 32 in early May of 1966. As AMG noted, the Brass Ring also had a hit with “The Dis-Advantages of You,” and we’ll get there shortly. In between the two hits, the group missed the Hot 100 with an odd samba version of “Lara’s Theme (from Dr. Zhivago)” that bubbled under at No. 126 during the last weeks of July 1966.

For those of us who were around at the time, the best-remembered of the Brass Ring tunes is the previously mentioned “The Dis-Advantages of You.” The tune peaked at No. 36 in March of 1967, which is not bad. But the tune is mostly memorable, I’d guess, because of its use as a soundtrack for those cigarette commercials mentioned by AMG, marketing with a quirky sense of humor a one-hundred millimeter cigarette at a time when even king size cigarettes were much shorter.