Monday, June 2, 2014

"Pac-Man Fever" by Buckner & Garcia

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  0870
Date:  01/09/1982
Debut:  76
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Novelty

Pop Bits:  This Akron, Ohio, duo (Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia) had been writing jingles and novelty-type songs throughout the 70s including one early garage-rock mock single called "Gotta Hear the Beat" as by Animal Jack. They got more national exposure with the song "Merry Christmas in the NFL" where they were billed as Willis the Guard & Vigorish. The song got enough attention (and negative reaction from Howard Cosell) to reach #82 on the pop chart. Inspired by the video game phenomenon, the two wrote and recorded a novelty song based on the hugely popular game Pac-Man. Picked up and released on an indy label, the song became a popular radio track and CBS then swooped in to pick up the duo. The single was a surprise hit and CBS called for a full album of game-inspired songs. The duo obliged and like the single, it became a gold-seller as well. Although a follow-up single was released, it didn't chart and this song became the one and only hit for the duo, giving them one-hit wonder status.

ReduxReview:  Novelty songs are like clothing fashions - they may have been hip and cool at the time, but years later they turn into "what was I thinking?" I mean, no one that I know has ever said that a specific novelty tune was a really great song. Typically, they aren't. But they do serve a purpose for entertainment, commentary, etc., at the time of their release and then later the nostalgia factor kicks in. I didn't like this song when it came out and I'd still not purposely call this up to hear it, but I will say that in the novelty song world, this one is not that horrible. Actually, I think it could function on its own as a real song if you took away the sound effects and came up with different lyrics. I don't think it would be a hit, but it would make a good new wave-y add to someone's LP.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although they wrote some serious songs as well (Buckner's "On and On" was recorded by Anne Murray in 1985), the crux of their main work remained in the novelty area. Garcia died in 2011, but Buckner continued on and ended up producing and performing on another game-based song called "Wreck-It, Wreck-It Ralph" from the animated movie "Wreck-It Ralph" in 2012.


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