BUCKNER AND GARCIA
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CREATORS OF "PAC MAN FEVER"
NOTE: I had originally written this
interview back when I wrote for x-entertainment.com in 2000. I was
so excited because it was my first celebrity interview. Some of the
discussion revolves around Napster, which is mostly irrelevant, and
there's a few links they refer to that no longer exist, but its a fun look
at 2 guys who were able to cash in on the Pac Man craze of 1980, and are
perhaps responsible for fueling it as well. They never were able to
duplicate their success, a one-hit wonder in every sense, but it's a fun
insight into the phenomenon of the time. Their website is still
active and they have a greatest hits CD for sale at a reasonable price
that includes songs about POGS, ET, and Mister T!
Pac-Man was a worldwide phenomenon. With everything from Pac-Man cereal,
to Pac Man air-fresheners (the sure sign of an 80s phenomenon) the little
yellow guy was everywhere. But nothing captured the craze like Jeff
Buckner and Gary Garcia's song, "Pac-Man Fever".
hit, it soon spawned an album with the same title that contained 9 other
arcade game influenced songs: "Goin Berserk", "Do The Donkey Kong" (their
follow up single), "Ode to a Centipede", "Mousetrap", "Froggy's Lament",
"Defender", and "Hyperspace".
honored to interview these legendary performers to find out some of the
behind the scenes info and learn a lot about what they've been up to
we started our interview, I typed in "Pac-Man Fever" on Napster and easily
found more than a hundred different users you can download that song from.
What do you think about that?
really a simple thing to look at. I know how people look at it on the
other side of the coin, and there's a certain convenience to be able to
get on Napster and grab a song especially if it's for a research or work
effort or a song you can't find...but if you wrote an article, or wrote a
song that could be published, and that's your livelihood, and someone
could just take it, how long would you keep doing it? You'd have to stop
because you couldn't make a living at it. There's copyright laws to stop
this type of thing.
almost all of your current record sales going through the internet
already, I imagine that same target audience would still be tempted to
just download it for free from Napster.
one good thing for us, people want the album cover itself, and the pattern
sheet that came with the original album. A lot of people want the whole
package, so in that sense, we're in better shape than a lot of people, but
most people just care about the songs, it's real difficult for them so
they're going to have to figure something out. I love the internet and we
use it and use everything. But we don't take other people's songs, I won't
1982, Pac Man fever comes out. I was in 7th grade at the time, probably
you're prime target audience. It was such a big deal then. They even had a
promotional deal at our local mall where you could play the game and if
you got a certain score, you'd win a free copy of the single. How high in
the charts did the song actually make it on the charts?
went to #9 on Billboard, #3 on Record World, and #5 in Cashbox.
record went out of print pretty soon, though, right?
GARY: I was
on vinyl and cassette, but it never made it to CD. After a couple of years
CBS just kept it out of print. Later some folks on the internet were
asking for it. Some folks were even trying to share it on the internet way
before Napster, but the quality wasn't very good, and the file size was
very big, so it wasn't too much of a problem then.
guys had to have over 39 different contracts signed in order to get that
album released. Why?
different people all over the world had different rights to clear for the
songs. Like Pac Man may have been owned by Bally Midway here, and NAMCO
had it somewhere else.
have to get the rights all over again for the CD release?
our manager at the time had the foresight to secure the rights as they say
"forever until the end of time" for this very reason.
probably would be impossible to resecure those again.
I'm sure the people in charge and the companies are long gone.
an appearance on MTV for a "Pac Man Fever Day". That was right during
MTV's infancy...what was that like?
took us over to the studios in New York. We were with Alan Hunter, and
they put us on display there and devoted a lot of time to talk about the
whole phenomenon. It was quite a thing. You tell people now and they say,
"What do you mean they made a Pac Man Day", but back then it was a big
ever attempt to make a video for it?
was just when videos were just starting to get big. It just never
happened. I think it sold so well without one, the studio just didn't want
the Pac-Man craze certainly did a lot to sell your album, your album
probably did more to even fuel the Pac-Man craze on top of that. Have you
ever got any recognition from the folks behind Pac Man as recognition for
got a few mugs and a couple of T-Shirts. I'm serious. That's how they
looked at it. But you're right the record really complimented the whole
Pac Man and game deal at the time. You have to understand at the time
record companies were struggling, I mean kids were busy putting quarters
in the games and not buying records, and we had the first record in that
period of time that the kids were buying in addition to the games, so it
generated a lot of revenue in a lot of areas. I think our song really help
put Pac-Man in a whole new league.
that song is one of the first things you think about when you think of
Pac-Man, they're almost Siamese twins.
tried our best to make a really great album, and tried to make them really
good pop songs. We wrote it as a song. We didn't just sit down and say,
"Hey here's a Pac Man Fever idea, let's throw some sound effects together
and hope for the best". People were recording Pac Man songs all over the
country, even Weird Al Yankovic. But we wanted to make a good record, and
I think we did that. If you listen to the album, they're all really good
pop music tracks.
haven't listened to most of those tunes since they originally came out in
1982, but I can still remember most of the lyrics and tunes to them.
That's a testament to how good the songs were.
was your favorite?
Frogger song more than anything. It had a fun quality to it.
talked about making that our second single instead of "Do the Donkey
there any castaways? I mean I'm sure you just didn't write the 10 songs
and get all 10 on the album as planned did you? Were there any game songs
you were going for that didn't up making the cut?
the Pac Man Fever single was out, and we had almost next to no time to
write and get the other songs out for the album. We had to do the whole
thing in about 3 weeks, so we didn't have time to make mistakes.
folks wonder why you never did a second album of more video game songs.
Was it just because the whole arcade scene died for a while?
like a Rocky VI or something. You can only go so far. You're a good
example of that, as far as talking about how you remember the record.
People in that Generation X age group attach themselves to that video game
craze. I think we did the best thing in one album then. We wanted to move
on, in fact we had a song called "ET I Love You" and that really was a
song that came about because we saw the movie, and we were moved, like
anyone else who saw it. We felt like that song was a chance for us to
bridge the gap into more regular songs. But it never got out because Neil
Diamond had "Heartlight", and he was such a big artist with
Columbia...it's a whole nasty story.
even got permission from Spielberg to do that ET song, right?
never met him personally, but he gave us the rights to do our song, and
didn't give Neil Diamond permission to do "Heartlight", but CBS shelved
ours and released his anyway, and Spielberg ended up suing Diamond over
hoping to get that on the soundtrack, wasn't he?
manager spoke with Spielberg, but there was some thought that they might
insert our song into the soundtrack because he liked it so much. But that
was before the whole Neil Diamond thing, and it all went down the tubes
from there. But it would have been great.
wasn't even released was it? I remember hearing about it but never even
saw it for sale.
was released to radio only. But you know that brings up a good point. If
we released that, by itself when Napster was out, everyone would just
download it on the internet, and we'd probably just sell 6 copies.
You're going to lose all your sources of new creativity. There'll be no
reason for bands to record and sell new music if they can't make a living
Yeah, they'll just do something else.
it's got to be frustrating when you're selling Pac Man fever on your page,
and someone can also just download it for free on Napster.
their argument is that they're providing a service. But you know if I got
out and steal a truckload of cigarettes, and go park it somewhere and open
the doors and say, "Well if you guys want to steal some go ahead, but I
want nothing to do with it." To me you're providing a way for people to
steal. They need to sit down and find a way to make it work for everybody.
I mean it's a great technology, but you've got to be fair. People think
the record companies are crooks, and they are, but you're hurting the
artist and the guy who writes the songs. It's not fair.
Pac Man fever album was the summation of 20 years of struggling and
beating our heads on the wall, and for someone to be giving it away for
free without our permission is absurd. But the problem stems from the
record companies, too, cause they didn't see it coming and they didn't try
to put themselves in a position where this wouldn't happen, or at least
make an agreement. It's gone too far. It'll take a while, but they'll work
it all out.
speaking of ordering CDs, I noticed you have another CD besides Pac Man
Fever called "Now and Then" that you can order through MP3.com.
as close to a second album that you'll get from us. There's some pre "Pac
Man Fever" stuff on it. There's even a Mr. T song on it.
that one's not on there.
did a Mister T song?!?
Remember when Mister T was really hot?
WAS hot? He STILL Is. I love Mister T, he's like my patron saint!
did the song, it's like a killer kickass song. We couldn't get it released
as a single though.
"Mister T". It was great. I looked at your site. You've got like a little
area for him, don't you.
always doing something to keep up with Mr. T. He's like a force of nature.
He's so rich and full of material, it's hard to ignore.
Yeah, it was a great great song.
use audio clips of him, was that the problem?
Gary did all the Mister T voices.
problem was the record company just didn't want to put anything else out
by us, because they just had us down as a one hit wonder, but they
wouldn't let us out of our contract, either, so we couldn't release it.
They had us by the short hairs.
made their money of us, and pretty much just wanted us to go away. We were
still recording songs, so we had some plans, but they didn't plan out with
CBS, that's for sure. We'll stick it on our next album, and see how it
does. You'd love the song, it's killer. It's one of the best things we've
ever done. It's kick ass.
games have changed so dramatically since then. Back then the most violent
thing in videogames was maybe Donkey Kong throwing a barrel at Mario.
Eating dots and ghosts is a far cry from tearing people's heads off and
blowing them up against a wall.
don't blame video games for the stuff that's going on in the schools but
it's ridiculous. I saw where 4 Kindergarten kids were kicked out of school
for playing cops and robbers and using their fingers as a gun. Have we got
to that point now? It's absurd. Back then we would get in trouble, and the
principal would deal with it, but now it's like The Stepford Wives. It's
frustrating. I'm glad our songs are at least about games that aren't about
guess that Berserk was pretty violent, but that was just robots. But
you're not doing Quake and Doom songs, then.
favorite web sites?
there's bucknergarcia.com and your site.
all you need.
like eBay, that's fun to look around in, and historic things. We also have
a radio station through out site. Pac Man Radio through Live 365. It's our
stuff mixed with 80s music, it's pretty fun.
pretty hard to get Pac Man Fever released?
was rejected by every single major record company. It was put on locally
on the radio. It took about a week and the next thing you know the Vice
President of CBS flew out and made the deal. The coolest thing was getting
off a plane in Los Angeles and hearing your song playing on the radio.
seeing a giant billboard with your album on it on Tower Records.
bad for a couple of yo yos from Akron. It was great...I loved it, and I
wish we could do it again.
you never know. Maybe the key is that Mr. T song.
Yeah, that could bring us back right?
Buckner and Garcia site