Vinyl Wednesday: Bucker & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever

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M-m-m-mousetrap, mousetrap — Cheese was the bait.
Won’t somebody help me — Before it’s too late?

I was woefully ignorant of Buckner & Garcia before one fateful trip to Cincinnati in early 2009. I grew up on the tail-end of the 80s arcade revolution. Did I go to some video game arcades in my youth? Yeah, I did. Did I sit around with friends and pump quarters into the machines trying to get a high score? Nope. Not even close. I grew up with Nintendo and Sega dominating the landscape of digital gaming. Arcades were already a passing phase once I was old enough to really enjoy them so it’s no wonder that I hadn’t heard of Buckner & Garcia and their minor hit “Pac-Man Fever” before 2009.

Released in December 1981, the title track of the album steadily rose on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, finally reaching #9 in March of 1982. The single sold over 1.2 million copies by the end of 1982 and over 2.5 million copies by the end of 2008. That. Is. Ridiculous.

The album Pac-Man Fever was released in January of 1982 and went on to sell over 1.2 million copies by the end of 1982. That’s pretty impressive for an album made up of songs based around arcade games. We’re not talking about the highest form of music-making here. The songs are decent and sound effects from each respective game are present, which I suppose was pretty cool and probably one of the selling points of the album. It is, at the least, a fun bit of nostalgia to bring out and listen to once a year. It surely gets me hyped up to play some Frogger and Centipede whenever I listen to it.

Now, onto my association with this album and the song “Mousetrap,” which ended up defining one of the more fun times I had while in college:

Dave Wilson, Lou Barberio and I bought a van, spray painted it and headed out to hit some skate spots at the end of winter in 2009. I can’t remember all of the details but it was likely over the Easter holidays. We wanted about 3 more people to come and in the end it just didn’t happen. The original plan was to head south through Columbus, stop in Kettering/Cincinnati and then head over to the Carolina’s and then drive back to Ohio. We figured on staying with friends and family along the way (and the van if necessary) but the furthest we got was Louisville, KY.

While we were in Cincinnati staying with Dave’s pal Andy Gasper, we set out to find some fun one night. Gasper introduced us to a few radio stations and one happened to sound like the DJ was broadcasting from his parents basement. It was super quirky but fantastic. I don’t know if the DJ was a bit handicapped or not but he was doing a great job at playing some weird shit. One of these songs was “Mousetrap” from the Pac-Man Fever album. We all just fell in love with this song for some reason (likely Dave and his weirdness). I don’t exactly know why but I decided that once we got back to our normal lives I’d seek out the rest of the album. I had to know if it was any good. Also, the real peach on top of the odd-DJ sundae was when he signed off he had ended it with “Cinnnnn-cinnnn-attttiiiiiiiiiii!” I mean, the way he said it was just great. It’s definitely one of those you-had-to-be-there moments but I still try to bring it up to Dave when I see him. It’s absolutely hilarious and it really stuck with me. Hell, I still say t to Naners all the time.

So, to make a long story a little shorter, I found a digital copy of the album online when we returned to Kent and I decided it wasn’t so bad. Fast-forward a few years and Nancy and I are now living in Chicago and we are getting into the vinyl game. I happened to be browsing some weird section at my favorite record store (Dave’s Records) and I noticed it. Pac-Man Fever in all its glory. It had to be mine. I snapped that thing up and took it to the counter and made my way home. I believe it was only about $8. I think I saw another copy not long after and it was somewhere around the $20 mark. Too rich for my blood, that’s for sure. It’s definitely worth the $5-10 range of an impulse buy.

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This album may be a bit beat up but the songs still play and the nostalgia factor is DEFINITELY strong with this release. It’s fun, quirky and filled with awesome sound effects that will make you feel like you are right back in the arcades of old. Maybe the next step will be to get your local barcade to play this album nonstop over their PA system.

Pac-Man Fever on Wikipedia

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