Guest Post No. 17: Chuck Molgat

Winnipeg’s Chuck Molgat is a music writer, curator of the Canadian Independent Music Hall of Fame, and co-commisioner of the UUHA, one of Toronto’s artist hockey leagues (he is also rec. hockey’s jersey/sweater king, although the title is unofficial). We play hockey together 2 or 3 times a week, and, naturally, I was thrilled when he asked about contributing to this site, which I hope he’ll do more than a few times. Here he is on the No. 7 cigarette theme 45. 

With few exceptions, movies and television shows have their own theme songs. Occasionally, specific characters therein have their own theme, too. Some of the most memorable themes accompany danger and dangerous things: James Bond, The Rockford Files, Darth Vader, Coach’s Corner… So it is no surprise cigarettes should boasts a theme memorable enough to stick in a listener’s head like tar in an elderly Portuguese neighbour’s lungs.

Given out as a freebie at Montreal’s Expo 67 to promote the Canadian butt brand No. 7 cigarettes, the theme was written by the late Bob Hahn who was renowned as Canada’s “Jingle King” and – aside from NHL’er Curtis Glencross – remains the undisputed pride of Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Arranged by legendary American maestro Mitchell Ayres, the strolling, easy-going song’s most memorable and unique element is it’s lyrics of which there are just two: “Who cares?”

The confident, dismissive idiom is repeated three times: once, just 20 seconds in, to provide punctuation to the opening verse, then again about halfway through, as if to ensure listeners the harmonized female smokers/vocalists (smokalists?) still haven’t a concern in the world. At track’s end, the sense of absolute and total carefreeness is confirmed beyond a doubt, before a sparse horn arrangement performs a series of short, descending honks, the likes of which might be used to indicate a contestant’s failure on a classic TV game show.

There is some sweet, tuneful whistling in the Number 7 Theme, too, sometimes accompanied by nothing more than the sauntering, vaguely equine clip-clop, clip-clop of wood blocks. Once or twice, the unconcerned smokalists drift back in, puff-like to provide a melodic “do-da-do-da-do-do”. Later, that same chill scat is dropped in a deep, male baritone, indicating that, as with the ladies, gentlemen smoking No. 7 cigarettes need not give a shit, either.

Just as every cigarette in a pack is exactly the same as the one next to it, this seven-inch’s B-side is the same as its A-side.

The Number 7 Theme evokes an almost opiate-like sense of relaxed sophistication – kind of like smoking used to back when whispered concerns about its effect on one’s health could be sloughed off with an exhaled cloud and two dangerous words: Who cares?

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