Gary Garcia, who teamed with Jerry Buckner to perform the 1982 hit “Pac-Man Fever”, a song synonymous with 1980s pop culture and America’s early love affair with arcade gaming, died yesterday at his home in Englewood, Fla. He was 63.
Composed as a parody of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”, “Pac-Man Fever” capitalised on the new national obsession with video games, especially the Pac-Man phenomenon. The single soared to No. 9 Billboard Hot 100 in March 1982 and anchored a gold album (one million copies sold) by the same name. That month, Buckner & Garcia performed “Pac-Man Fever” on American Bandstand.
Like many acts from a decade defined by one-hit wonders, Buckner & Garcia could not extend the success of “Pac-Man Fever” into successive works. A second song off the same album, “Do the Donkey Kong” barely missed Billboard’s Hot 100 (peaking at No. 103 on a separate list). None of the six other songs, tributes ranging from Defender to Mouse Trap, went anywhere either. The duo did later write lyrics for an extended version of the theme to WKRP in Cincinnati.
“Pac-Man Fever” and all of the album’s songs were released over the Rock Band Network this year, for play in the Rock Band series.
In a tribute posted on the duo’s website, Buckner credited the writing of “Pac-Man Fever” to his friend, whom he had met in the 1960s when both were high schoolers in Akron, Ohio. “Gary and I wrote Pac Man Fever in my front room. He mostly handled the lyrics and I the music. He was a gifted writer.
“His opening line, ‘I gotta pocket full of quarters and I’m headed to the arcade’ is a classic,” Buckner wrote, “and summed up the entire video game craze that was sweeping the country at that time.”