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Vintage Nerdcore: Pac-Man Fever at 30

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.

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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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia