Vintage Nerdcore: Pac-Man Fever at 30

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Much like pro wrestling, video games are another part of pop culture easily referenced by the modern artist, whether it's Styles P checking Red Dead Redemption in "B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast)," Del The Funky Homosapian's love letter to video games "Proto Culture" or Childish Gambino sampling the music from Donkey Kong Country for "Eat Your Vegetables."

Pac-Man wasn't the first arcade game or the best game of all time, but it was a landmark in video-game history and became part of the fabric of pop culture. Unfortunately, America's favorite pellet-chewer hasn't had a lot of songs written in his honor.

Ask someone to name a song about Pac-Man. Since this is Houston, the obvious choice would be Lil' Flip's "Game Over." However, if that person hasn't studied up on their Houston hip-hop history, they'd have to go all the way back 30 years to find another big song about Pac-Man.

But "Pac-Man Fever" wasn't the last video-game song for the pair known as Buckner & Garcia. It was only the beginning.

Novelty songs are everywhere these days. Anyone with some free time, a little bit of musical talent, a camera and an idea can go from nothing to viral sensation overnight. It's not the type of success that makes for hit singles, but fame is fame.

There was a time, before viral videos and social media, where one could theoretically have a real music career off of novelty songs. With the right song at the right moment, you could get that one hit necessary to live off of the rest of your life.

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Buckner & Garcia's little-heard Pac-Man Fever follow-up
Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia were just your average novelty songwriting duo when they got lucky in 1982. "Pac-Man Fever" was the right blend of silly and pop culture at the time and went all the way to No. 9 on the Hot 100. That was enough for Columbia/CBS to offer them a record deal.

That record deal came with a price: The label was only interested in more songs about video games.

The result was an album titled Pac-Man Fever, which Rocks Off is 95% sure was the first concept album about video games. The title track might have been a hit, but could they repeat their success over the course of an entire LP? We loaded the album up on Spotify to find out.



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13 comments
Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

I still have the original 45 I bought, probably the same week I bought the book "Mastering Pac-Man" (my muscle memory still recalls the patterns). However, I do remember at the time wondering why the guy from the Grateful Dead was singing about video games. 

Jerry Buckner
Jerry Buckner

Dear Cory:

I read your review of our album Pac Man Fever. In it youproclaimed Pac Man Fever to be an “accidental hit”. You are one cleverindividual. You got us. It’s all a farce.  The truth is out. 2 ½ million people accidentlywalked into a store and bought Pac Man Fever. They accidently reached in theirpockets and pulled out their money and accidently laid it on the counter. Thenthey accidently took it home and played it.

Entertainment Tonight, The Today Show, 60 Minutes, CBS News,all accidently interviewed us and featured the song on their programs. Everymajor newspaper and magazine in the country accidently featured stories aboutus including People, Us, Newsweek, The L.A. Times, The New York Times and theninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the U. S., The Houston Chronicle.

Billboard Magazine accidently ranked us in the Hot 100 for 9weeks, MTV accidently interviewed us live and played our song repeatedly and DickClark accidently featured us on American Bandstand.

Fans continue to accidently purchase the album and last yearthe song was accidently featured in the Rose Bowl Parade and accidently declaredby People Magazine to be number 250 on their list of the top 1000 pop culture icons.

I wonder if 30 years from now anyone will remember anythingyou have written? Maybe… accidently.

Most Sincerely,Jerry Buckner Buckner & Garcia Productions

Cory Garcia
Cory Garcia

Dear Mr. Buckner- 

A couple of notes before I begin:

1. I'm writing this under the assumption that you are in fact the real Jerry Buckner. I have no way of knowing whether or not that is true or if you're just the greatest troll ever, but for any of the following to make sense I'm going to assume I'm dealing with the real deal. I've logged in under my Facebook account because I want you to know that I'm the real Cory Garcia, author of this blog post.

2. I want you to know that everything I'm about to write is real and sincere. This isn't an attempt to be clever. This is just me address you human to human.

That said...

It's hard to know exactly what will strike a chord with music fans and what won't. If writing hit songs was easy everyone would do it. Knowing what will and won't work is hard.

I personally don't like Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now". I think it's a boring, uninteresting song and that he's a horrible rapper, but people seem to love it. On the other hand I think Kanye West's "All Of The Lights" is an amazing song and would sweep the Grammy's, but it didn't.

So when I say your song sounds like an accidental hit, what I'm saying is that it doesn't seem forced or planned. It sounds like something that you and Mr. Garcia started writing for fun, perhaps in a garage somewhere, and that it just happened to come at the right place and right time.

I don't know you Mr. Buckner and I don't know what your mindset was when you and Mr. Garcia went to work on "Pac-Man Fever". I was giving you what I assumed was fair credit- that the song wasn't a cash grab, but something you naturally wrote and it just became a big hit.

If the official line of "Buckner & Garcia Productions" is that the song was destined to be a hit, that everything was planned, and that the song was meant from the start to be a chart topper then I can't argue with that. 

I don't doubt for a second that you gave millions of people happiness through your song.

All of that said, I can save you the trouble of wondering: I can assure you- in 30 years no one will remember anything I wrote.

Ask my friends and family and they'll tell you the same thing: while I think I'm a good writer, I know I'm not a popular one. 

I didn't write about your album for page views. Frankly, I'm surprised my editor let me.

I wrote about it because I love concept albums, be they about talking bikes or armadillo tanks. So maybe there wasn't a story line to follow- it was still a neat concept for an album, and I'm genuinely surprised there isn't an 8-bit tribute to it.

So now, I harbor no illusions that what I write will change the world or bring millions happiness. Success for me means getting in to the "Top Blog Stories" bar at the top of the screen. I shouldn't care but it makes me happy.

I don't apologize for what I wrote, and I'm not going to apologize if it made you upset. I choose my words and I stand by them.

People might not care about what I write 30 years from now, but if they do I hope that I'm mature enough not to have a persecution complex about my words when they do.

Sincerely,Cory GarciaTeam Radioface Productions

Dr. Randall Goins
Dr. Randall Goins

Mr. Buckner, I just wanted to thank you and your late partner for your countless contributions to the music world, and my life.  Mr. Garcia's article was completely out of line. I remember the first time I heard "Froggy's Lament."  It changed my life.  It was at the moment I heard those haunting lyrics - "Ribbit.  Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy" - that I truly realized how alone we would be on this earth without the magic of music.  The cacophony of video game references and pop savvy in your music enlightened me more than any Led Zeppelin album ever could.  You opened my eyes and helped me to discover how precious every day is when we have music.  In closing, I just want to reiterate my thanks. Thank you so much for the art you have given the human race.  God may have created the sun to give us light, but it was your songwriting prowess that truly illuminated our planet.

Jeff
Jeff

Jesus, if this is what you get writing about Pac Man Fever, don't fucking write about Disco Duck...accidentally or otherwise.

AllisonMiles
AllisonMiles

Perhaps Mr. Buckner's comments would have more impact ... if he could correctly spell "accidentally." Just a thought. 

MelissaSMaynard
MelissaSMaynard

I hope more people accidentally read this little response rant and accidentally realize what a pompous douche this guy is. One thing's for sure, I will remember this piece Cory has written 30 years from now as a constant reminder to continue not to buy this album. Accidentally of course.

Craig Hlavaty
Craig Hlavaty

 Jesus, I think Cory was being very sentimental and appreciative of your work.

Jerry Buckner
Jerry Buckner

Dear Cory:

                I am in receipt of your email and can confirmthat I am Jerry Buckner of Buckner & Garcia.

               I fullyrespect your right to critique our music and voice your opinion about it in anyway you wish. I would only hope that you would extent that same right to me inreplying to it without accusing me of being immature with a persecution complex.I can assure you I have many faults those of which are not among them.

The fact is I don’t like being atodds with anyone so let me apologize for any misunderstandings between us andwish you the best in your endeavors.

We enjoy making music and thankthose for listening who like it and those who don’t.

Most Sincerely,               Jerry Buckner

Ray
Ray

Accidently is spelled correctly. Check out a dictionary if you know how read

Captain Spellcheck
Captain Spellcheck

"Accidentally" is the correct spelling. "Accidently" is acceptable in informal writing now even though it's wrong. Dictionaries often include alternate spellings used by morons.

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