Recording information: the Sound Shop, Atlanta, GA.
How do you rate something so utterly dated, obscure, unintentionally funny, and commercialized? Pac-Man Fever is a thrown-together full-length slice of nostalgic baloney meant to capitalize on the early days of video game fanaticism. What sets it apart is its earnest approach to the subject matter: If you're looking for a Dr. Demento product, you're misinterpreting a novelty product so bad it's good. The music was an instantly recognizable and formulaic pop/rock, featuring the samples and themes to the original video games by Williams, Atari, Midway, Sega, Nintendo, and others. Now it's a precious time capsule. Gary Garcia and Jerry Buckner were a couple guys living in Georgia, writing radio jingles to make a living. One day, after finishing work early, they cranked out a song about Pac-Man in about an hour's time. The demo was shopped around to all the major record companies, and unanimously turned down. CBS records eventually took a bite, after discovering the same kids spending money at the arcade could buy a record about the stuff -- a consumer gold mine, considering the target audience. In an interview, CBS recalls Pac Man Fever sales being "in the millions," and was largely responsible for putting the label in the black for mid-1982. The single managed to take on a life of its own through 45s and 12-inch releases, featuring extended and/or instrumental versions of the same song. The lyrics for this (and others) are clearly written by someone in the know, someone riding the cusp of arcade terminology who was fully aware of the intricate plot-developments and unsavory characters in these games. Take a look at this loaded passage from the title cut: "I've got all the patterns down, up until the ninth key. I've got Speedy on my tail, and I know it's either him or me. So I'm heading out the back door and in the other side; Gonna eat the cherries up and take them all for a ride. " This is either unlistenable cheese, or just the thing to get a nerd-party started. Other pseudo-timeless gems include "Froggy's Lament," an odd ruckus in the spirit of "Convoy" and "Disco Duck," and "Ode to Centipede" is a tear-jerking power ballad that breaks urgently into blistering guitar solos and tense synthesizer cadences. Bob Seger and Toto would fit right in. "Do the Donkey Kong" was the only other single to be released from the album, but the album was already starting to disappear from the general public's memories. Songs like "Mousetrap" and "Goin' Bezerk" may explain why. For better or worse, after 15 years of cultish following, the album is being re-released to CD with all the original songs, arrangements, and vocal performances. Rejoice/beware. ~ Glenn Swan