Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia were a songwriting team from Akron, Ohio who recorded jingles and commercials in the Atlanta area when they got hooked on Pac-Man. Their first encounter with the game was at a restaurant in Marietta, Georgia. In our interview with Buckner, he told the story: "Everybody was playing it so we started playing it too. Well, we got hooked and we ended up sitting in there for two hours instead of going back and working. We did this for a while and I said, 'Hey, let's do a song about this,' and Gary said, 'Yeah, okay, it seems like it's something fun.'
Because we were doing a lot of jingles and making pretty good money, we thought we could get play here in Atlanta and get our names out there. We'd put our names on the song and get some local play and that would help us get some commercials. That was the original intention. We never dreamed that this thing could be a national hit like it was."
The song describes a guy who heads to the arcade with a pocketful of quarters. He plays so much Pac-Man, his shoulder hurts from so much time on the joystick. The game isn't very complicated, so just about every aspect of play gets a mention in the lyric: avoiding ghosts, getting the fruit, heading out the back door, etc. Once his quarters are gone, he heads home and plans to do it again the next night.
Buckner & Garcia were slightly ahead of the Pac-Man trend. By the time the game became a phenomenon, they had already released the song on a small label and were in a position to capitalize on the Pac-Man craze. One of their friends who was a morning disc jockey on the Atlanta radio station 94Q played it a few times on his show, and the single started selling. This got the attention of CBS Records, who signed them to a deal and issued it as a single in wide release.
Three of the four ghosts get a mention in the lyrics:
I've got Speedy on my tail, and I know it's either him or me
'Cause Pokey's too slow, and Blinky's out of sight
Speedy is the pink one, also known as Pinky; Pokey orange, better known as Cldye; Blinky is red. The ghosts actually move at the same speed, although Speedy is rather cunning.
The only ghost not mentioned: Inky (a.k.a. "Bashful") - the blue one.
When initial pressings of the "Pac-Man Fever" single sold quickly, CBS Records decided they needed a whole album of Buckner & Garcia material. The duo had played in rock bands around Akron (where they crossed paths with Chrissie Hynde), and were hoping to put that material on the album, but CBS had a different plan: an entire album of video game songs. And it had to be quick, before the Pac-Man fad passed.
Buckner & Garcia complied, and over the next 10 days they researched video games and wrote songs like "Do The Donkey Kong," "Ode To A Centipede," and "Froggy's Lament."
"We would go out to a game room or wherever we could find a particular game, and we'd find out who could play it and we'd watch them and write down how the game went," Buckner said in his Songfacts interview. "Then we'd go back and work on the song half the night, get up the next day and record the song."
The album sold well and "Do The Donkey Kong" even bubbled under at #103 on the Hot 100.
This wasn't the first chart entry for Buckner & Garcia. In 1980, they issued a comedy single called "Merry Christmas In The NFL" that reached #82 in the US.
The "Pac-Man Fever" single sold over 2 million copies and was a major source of revenue for CBS Records, but the label didn't support their next effort: a song called "E.T., I Love You" that was inspired by the movie. Unfortunately for Buckner & Garcia, Neil Diamond, who was also on CBS, recorded his own "E.T.-inspired song," and the label pushed that one instead. They dropped Buckner and Garcia the next year.
Both kept working in the music and radio industries, and Jerry Buckner wrote a song called "On And On" that Anne Murray released on her 1986 album Something to Talk About. Gary Garcia died on November 17, 2011 at age 63, having suffered heart problems for years.
The song contains sound effects from the video game, which were recorded recorded directly from a machine at a local deli. That series of bleeps at the beginning is what plays when you start a game of Pac-Man.
There is a rumor that if you listen closely, you can hear someone placing an order at the deli where the machine was recorded. "If you wanted the Pac-Man sound effects, you had to go record them," Jerry Buckner told us. "So the engineers went to a deli to record the Pac-Man sound effects and when they came back we said, 'How did it go?' and they put them up to listen to them. They said, 'Oh, it went pretty good except towards the end somebody was ordering a sandwich or something,' and we all started laughing about it.
We obviously didn't want to include that in the actual record, but at the time, several people said they could still faintly hear it in the very beginning in headphones. That's how it started and the rumor just spread around. I can't hear it, but it did happen: When they were recording it in the deli somebody ordered a sandwich and they caught just a teeny bit of it at the very end of the sound effect."
Pac-Man was developed in Japan and released there in May 1980. In October, it came to America and quickly gobbled up quarters in arcades. In 1981, Ms. Pac-Man was issued, and by 1982, Pac-Man Fever was gripping the nation. Buckner & Garcia were on top of the trend, getting this song out early in 1982. In March, it reached #9, the only novelty song to crack the Top 10 that year.
In September 1982, the Pac-Man TV series was launched, which lasted two seasons. A spin-off game called "Pac-Man Jr." appeared in 1983.
Many parody artists did Pac-Man songs, but this is the one that stuck. "Weird Al" Yankovic did one called "Pac-Man" to the tune of The Beatles song "Taxman," but it didn't surface until 1995 when it appeared on a Dr. Demento compilation.
"Most of these other records that were done, they would throw in sound effects and stuff, and they were really horrible," Buckner told us. "But we approached it as songwriters because we were songwriters, pop songwriters, so we said, We're going to write a pop song first. We're going to come up with a song with a good hook and have an actual record that would have a chance on its own as a pop song, versus just throwing some drums and bass together and cashing in on sound effects, which probably would have worked for a week or two but really wouldn't do that well."
Buckner & Garcia carved out a niche releasing songs about video games. "Old School Games" and "Wreck-It Wreck-It Ralph" are among their other titles. Buckner has also made numerous appearances at conventions and other Pac-Man related events.
CBS Records didn't release the Pac-Man Fever album on CD, so in 1999 Buckner and Garcia re-recorded it on their own. This satisfied demand for the CD and also gave them a version of the song they could license.
The producer and video game personality Jace Hall did a remix of this song in 2012 that he used on his syndicated series The Jace Hall Show.
To capitalize on the movie Pixels, another version of the song, incorporating elements of the Jace Hall remix, was released in 2015 called "Pac-Man Fever (Eat 'Em Up)." This version, produced by Jerry Buckner and Danny Jones, uses Gary Garcia's original vocal, but with a modern backing track.
In 2012, Steelehouse Productions made a video called Pac-Man The Movie (The Fan Film) with new renderings of the characters in the game. At Buckner's behest, they used footage from the video combined with new material to make the music video for "Pac-Man Fever (Eat 'Em Up)," which quickly got over 3 million views on YouTube.
This was recorded in German by Gerald Mann. The title was "Pac-Man Fieber."
Brian from Boston, MaThis may very well be the best song of all time.A song by wich every other song will be measured. .When I think of legends in the music industry the first names that come to mind are Buckner and Garcia. If I remember correctly Pacman fever is the biggest selling single of all time.When I saw Buckner and Garcia live in 82 at a sold out Madison Square Garden I knew I was seeing history unfold. When they announced their breakup in 84 I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were or what we were doing when we heard the news much like the Kennedy assasination or 9/11 Pacman fever is one of of those songs that comes around only once in a liftime. Even though it is still constantly played on the radio I will never get sick of it
Stormy from Northport, MiThose were the days.
Barcrest from Birmigham, England2 other popular arcade spin off games were baby pacman which was a pinball/video game hybrid and Pac Land.
Joseph from Alabama, Alokay okay. howard. your a loser. nathan. your gay. jes. well we all know that you are a transvestite. but thats okay. we all agree on one thing i believe. that Ferris Bueller is really fat and old.
Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was the song the defined the video game era.
Nathan from Defiance, OhI hope you're kidding Jes!