- - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The most infectious song of the 1980s is back thanks in part to Adam Sandler’s vintage video game icon-packed movie “Pixels.” Buckner & Garcia’s “Pac-Man Fever has been re-done as “Pac-Man Fever 2015 (Eat Em Up)” for a whole new generation of joystick jockeys to enjoy.

Jerry Buckner, co-creator of the ultimate earworm, spoke about how the song came to be and why it lives on some three-plus decades later. Get ready to feel the fever again!

Question: How did the musical team of Buckner & Garcia come together?

Answer: Gary [Garcia] and I went to school together. We were in bands, together and separately. After high school we teamed up and started writing songs.

Q: What were you guys doing before “Pac-Man Fever?”

A: We played in typical rock bands back then. Eventually, after we moved to Atlanta, we built up a jingle business. That is what we were doing just prior to “Pac-Man Fever.”

Q: How did that song come about?

A: We were working on jingles and stepped out to grab dinner at a restaurant. We saw the Pac-Man machine for the first time. Eventually got hooked like everybody else. We thought, “Instead of feeding this thing quarters every night and losing money, maybe we could do a song?” We thought if we could get a little bit of local radio play it would maybe help our jingle business.

Q: Gary Garcia wrote the lyrics and you wrote the music?

A: Mostly he was the lyrics and I was on music. Especially on “Pac-Man Fever.” The opening line, “I got a pocket full of quarters and I’m heading to the arcade.” That summed up the whole time. It has become this immortal line.

Q: Is it true that at first no record companies would give you guys a deal?

A: Our manager took it to 22 companies. Nobody wanted it. He believed in it and pressed up some records. Then a local radio station played it, and it just exploded. Within a week CBS said, “We want this record!”

Q: Whose idea was an entire album of video game songs?

A: CBS said, “Look, we need to do an album to support this single.” We began to work on some regular pop songs. They said, “No, no, no. We want all game songs.” We were against that, but how do you tell CBS no?

Q: How did you pick which games to write songs about?

A: We went out at night to the arcades and looked at the games, found the games that looked popular and someone who knew how to play them. We watched them, went home and worked on the song overnight. The next day, with only a couple hours of sleep, we would go in and record the song. It was a grueling two weeks of recording. We were under the gun from CBS. They wanted us to do it as quickly as possible.

Q: Where did you get the game samples from?

A: A sound engineer had to go into an arcade and get them off the machines. We had to license them. On the original album it took 26 contracts to get the rights to use everything.

Q: What did you guys do after the video game craze faded?

A: We continued to write songs. We did some other production. Nothing as big came out of it. Eventually I got into doing radio. A few years ago I got back into writing, and the retro thing started happening.

Q: How did a new Buckner & Garcia song end up in the 2012 Disney film “Wreck It Ralph”?

A: We got a call that Disney wanted us to do a song for the movie. Turned out to be the lead track. That opened the door to a bunch of new stuff.

Q: That track was billed as Buckner & Garcia, but sadly Gary died in 2011.

A: It was really important to Disney that we have that name. When I told them Gary had passed, they said, “Can someone else sing it but use the name?” I spoke with Gary’s widow, and she agreed to it.

Q: How hard was it to continue without Gary Garcia?

A: It’s tough. Beyond our business relationship, Gary and I were best friends. We were like brothers. I miss him dearly. Very talented guy. It’s not the same without him.

Q: What inspired you to do the latest version “Pac-Man Fever 2015 (Eat Em Up)”?

A: It’s the 35th anniversary of the game this year. Also, when we found out about the “Pixels” movie, we thought this may be a good time to do a new version. The song became a social event, and it just keeps going.

“Pac-Man Fever 2015 (Eat Em Up)” is available on iTunes.

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