In 1983, a commercial for the classic arcade game Dig Dug played in movie theaters across the country. It was a spoof of cheesy sci-fi B-movies, complete with a couple of teens at “lovers’ lane” hearing about their encroaching doom from a panicked radio announcer. Soon enough, though, people in silver jumpsuits and headlamps show up to sing a tune in bubblegum rock ’n’ roll style. The commercial won a Clio award for “U.S. Cinema Advertising,” but apparently at one point, Atari had even bigger plans for its silver-screen ad.
In a post on the Atari Museum Facebook group—spotted by game developer and preservationist Frank Cifaldi and quoted on his Video Game Preservation Dump Tumblr—the son of a former Atari executive revealed that Chubby Checker—of “The Twist” and “Let’s Twist Again” fame—originally recorded the Dig Dug song that plays in the commercial. Checker’s rendition was replaced in the final version of the ad, though, for unknown reasons. Matt Osborne found a demo tape containing the original Chubby Checker version and recently uploaded the track to SoundCloud (embedded below). “I don’t recall why his [song] was eventually dropped [in lieu] of the one in the final cut of the commercial,” Osborne wrote. “The only thing that makes sense is that Chubby might have appealed to a much older audience and not the one that the commercial was targeted towards, so they eventually choose a younger representation for the band singing the song.”
The switch was a shame. It’s clear that whoever was putting this commercial together had Checker’s signature tunes in mind when working on the song, and the only thing that changed was the removal of Checker’s original vocals. If, like Matt Osborne suggested, marketers were concerned with reaching a younger audience, they probably should have changed the style of the song as well. Where were Buckner & Garcia when Atari needed them?