275. ‘In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)’, by Zager & Evans

You see the title of this next #1 hit, and you prepare yourself for something special. We’re off to the year 2525… With a duo that sound like a second-rate magic act.

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In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus), by Zager and Evans (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 24th August – 14th September 1969

It gets underway with a Spanish guitar and Mariachi-band backing. It reminds me of Dave Dee and Co’s ‘The Legend of Xanadu’, another Latin-flavoured glimpse into a strange world. In the year 2525, If man is still alive, If woman can survive, They may find…

In comes a relentless galloping beat, over which a terrifying vision of the future is unveiled. By the year 3535, you’ll be taking pills to tell you what to think, by 4545 you won’t need your teeth or your eyes… You won’t find a thing to chew, Nobody’s gonna look at you… In 5555, the machines will have taken all the jobs, rendering our limbs obsolete. And by 6565: Ain’t gonna need no husband, Won’t need no wife… You’ll pick your son, Pick your daughter too, From the bottom of a long glass tube… Woah-woah…

Fair to say it’s a pretty pessimistic view of the future. It has the air of a crazed evangelist, preaching angrily from his pulpit, as all the while the beat goes on, and on. The predictions change to years ending in ten, for rhyming purposes, as we go forward. And by 8510, God will have had enough, and will come down to rip it all up and start again. It’s a crazy record. I’m not sure I like it all that much, but it is entertaining…

The final verse is probably the most prescient. In the year 9595, I’m kinda wonderin’, If man is gonna be alive, He’s taken everything this old earth can give, And he ain’t put back nothin’… Woah-woah… Doesn’t that pretty much sum up the fears of 2020, with our rising temperatures, killer viruses and plastic-swilling oceans? In fact, Zager & Evans’ vision of the future hinges on its opening line: If man is still alive… Who here’s willing to put money on humans being around in 2125, let alone 2525?

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We’re used to science fiction that looks into the near-future: ‘Back to the Future’ in 2015, ‘Terminator’ in 2029 and so on, so that we can chuckle when we reach the date in question and point out that none of what was predicted has come to pass. But who can actually get their head around the year 2525? It’s five hundred and five years away! And the year 9595, on which the song ends – it is practically impossible for the human mind to imagine that far forward in time. ‘In the Year 2525’ was nominated for a ‘Hugo Award’, for the best science fiction / fantasy works of the year, though, so who am I to question it?

Denny Zager and Rick Evans were a duo from Lincoln, Nebraska, and they are the purest of one-hit wonders. None of their subsequent follow-ups made the charts. This is their sole chart-topping single, on either side of the Atlantic (fittingly, it was #1 in the US as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.) Zager is still alive, but Evans sadly passed-away in 2018.

We’re drawing to the end of the 1960s, and this record is almost the direct antithesis of a lot of the positivity we’ve seen in pop music throughout the decade. In fact, 1969 has been a year for some pretty cynical chart-toppers: Peter Sarstedt’s cutting ‘Where Do You Go To…’, The Beatles sarcastic ‘Ballad of John and Yoko’, The Move’s melodramatic break-up in ‘Blackberry Way’. Now this anti-flower power anthem. Two years ago it was ‘All You Need Is Love’; now it’s all the ways in which we, as a race, are doomed…

22 thoughts on “275. ‘In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)’, by Zager & Evans

  1. This was #1 during the time I was turning three. I always like the song. The tune is catchy if you ignore the lyrics. It was lost on my three-year-old brain but, I remember it on the radio. The “all you need is love” transitioned into “we’re all gonna die” most likely due to the Vietnam War fatigue.

    There will always be humans on this planet. Not to plug my site but, if you are so inclined…and have some time, dig into some of the Chris Thomas material I have. We are here for a reason.

    • You are right – the effects of Vietnam on the charts, and the public consciousness at the time must have been huge. Plus, I know it’s only the end of a decade, but there seems to have been a fin de siecle feel to the end of the sixties, as if people already knew how good it had been, and that it wouldn’t be this good again…

      • Camelot crashed in 1963. The Watts Riots were in 1965 (August). In the case of this particular song’s #1 position, Woodstock was last week (August). Almost precisely, one year prior, was the ’68 Convention riots (August). Once JFK was murdered, everything changed. I can’t speak to the mood of the UK, specifically but, the US was a powder keg. Cronkite & his ilk, with their nightly body count broadcasts, didn’t help the overall mood (I’m seeing MANY similarities in David Muir’s nightly body counts, too…). That “end of the 19th century” feel was palpable…in the music, literature, news… There was an underlying sadness, too. The peace & love revolution never happened (shift in humanity). The world rulers still have a firm grip on everyone’s collar…even now.

      • And the next number one will be continuing the apocalyptic theme… I have to say, though, that musically I’m finding this period more interesting to review than the ‘summer of love’ hits, as much as I love ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and the like…

      • I’d have to say artists, writers, lyricists and composers do better work with strife. The human spirit has to work harder to rise above. The struggle emerges from the soul and winds up in creative endeavors. Intense love and longing produces nearly the same.

        I agree with you.

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  3. I was mad on this record and the dark sci-fi mood as an 11-year-old, it seemed the future, albeit not one a pretty one, but the times weren’t pretty either, Vietnam & the murders of MLK and Bobby Kennedy all fed into the end of the hippie dream as Manson went on a murder spree and The Beatles disintegrated. Even The Archies, a kids TV show, showcased what was happening in society and to the planet with songs about pollution, deforestation, racism, so all of this was very much upfront in the minds of young kids like me and still galls that no-one listened and the mess the planet is in is worse and worse by the year.

    So was it predicting the future? Yes. If anything it was far too optimistic! 3535: pills to stop you thinking? Here. 4545: Teeth and eyes? Still needed. 5555: atrophying appendages due to lack of use? Only in some quarters, though I’d argue the thumb will be about 2m long by then from inbred centuries of mobile phone use. 6565: test tube babies? Here. Not got the artificial womb thing sorted yet, but you can certainly pick them from a test tube. Lasting another 10,000 years seems very optimistic the way we’re currently heading!

    Still, gotta laugh! 🙂

    • Hard to argue with you… Getting away from the doom and gloom for a second, the song does cover a hell of a long time. Ten-thousand years ago it was all still wooly mammoths and ice-age cave-paintings, right? So even if everything went smoothly – no global warming, coronaviruses or lunatic world leaders – the ‘humans’ of 9595 would be far removed from us. But yeah, as it is I’m not planning any further ahead than 2025 🙂

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  5. It’s a great song for the sound of it, but has always – even when it came out – been intensely pessimistic. I remember being surprised by it when it came out, that it arrived in amongst all the lighter stuff, but I presume that’s why it happened then. However, I don’t think everyone took it particularly seriously at the time. Well, some would have done: all the natural pessimists.

    One thing – that another commenter has touched upon: vietnam. Really, that was on everyone’s minds, all over the world, there was no getting away from its effects. Something had to give, so the music world started shifting.

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