Pac-Man and Donkey Kong and ’80s novelty songs

by birtanpublished on July 2, 2020

if something gets popular enough someone

will probably write a song about it

usually it will be bad unless that thing

is pac-man and the song is pac-man fever

pac-man fever is maybe the greatest

novelty song of all time

that's because it combines the usual fun

and folly of a typical novelty song with

80s production values and pac-man as the

subject like this is what happens

between the first chorus and second

verse released by songwriting duo

Buckner and Garcia in 1981 pac-man fever

would reach number nine on the Billboard

Hot 100 and eventually be certified gold

that's right for the week of March 27

1982 pac-man fever was more popular than

edge of 70

where that is now

also more popular than my girls Stevie

Nicks that week takeoff by Bob and Doug

McKenzie both pac-man fever and takeoff

our classic examples of novelty songs a

style of songwriting that became popular

in the 1920s when almost everything you

heard on the radio emerged from Tin Pan

Alley in New York Tin Pan Alley was a

block of publishers and songwriters in

New York City that ran trained on

popular music from 1885 until well into

the 20th century they had three

divisions ballads dance music and

novelty songs which included number one

hits like yes we have no bananas and how

much is that doggie in the window which

is a terrible song and just not going to

play it that song rules though and

really a lot of one-hit wonders can be

traced back either directly to Tin Pan

Alley or the songwriting traditions that

it inspired yackety-yak the purple

people eater my ding-a-ling


which brings us to the glorious 80s the

rise of the arcade and the dawn of the


pac-man was released in 1980 and by 1982

when pac-man fever was climbing the


there were over 400,000 cabinets in

North America

pac-man altered the video game landscape

by deviating from the standard gameplay

of past hits like space invaders and

pong opening up gaming to new casual

fans and song writers Buckner and Garcia

now Buckner and Garcia didn't want to

just write novelty songs about video

games but they had a hit and that meant

they got a record deal and that meant

having a record label that just wanted

them to repeat the successes of the past

because that is the secret genius of big

business endless soul-crushing

repetition repetition repetition

knew the donkey kong' came out two

months after pac-man fever cracked the

top ten and peaked at 103 it's also

structurally the exact same song

even though no one wanted to do the

Donkey Kong a full-length album was

assembled called pac-man fever and it

featured songs about asteroids and

Frogger and centipede centipede to his

team bands the spider saw his son

Phyllis bunker and Garcia were hardly

the only songwriters to try to cash in

on the video game craze of the 1980s

Australia's player 1 actually beat them

to the punch by two years with their

very funky and super excellent space

invaders 1983 saw the release of an

album by kids stuff records credited to

Donkey Kong himself it's super bad to

time Nintendo even tried to cash in

officially with their white knuckles

scoring compilation in 1991 featuring

Roy Orbison and crosby Stills and Nash

and also this jaunty jellyfish track


ultimately Buckner and Garcia were kind

of the only dudes to do this with any

real heart even if eventually their

record label would take their heart out

of their chest and wreck their career

and pac-man fever remains a classic a

respected classic even in 2011 Disney

reached out to them about writing a song

for one of their new characters Ralph

Garcia would pass away before the film's

released but this song is still credited

to Buckner and Garcia

what do you think do you have a favorite

novelty song or a favorite videogame

song let us know you think in the

comments and be sure to subscribe for

new episodes of this exists every week

be excellent to each other

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