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Sep 06

ZAGER AND EVANS – “In The Year 2525 (Exordium And Terminus)”

FT + Popular33 comments • 2,952 views

#275, 30th August 1969

Science-fiction songs are rare visitors to the mundane world of Earth’s pop charts, and a song that goes beyond sci-fi into a genuinely apocalyptic future vision – a kind of folk-rock Olaf Stapledon! – is more unusual still. Everything about Zager and Evans’ hit – the high-sounding subtitle, the pained vocal nobility, the trilling melodrama of the guitars – could easily be read as kitsch now, but it carries a weird power and conviction too. This is actually enhanced by the quite boring song structure and the clunky phrasing – “You won’t find a thing to chew” – and goes some way to explaining both why it hit so big and why these time-tossed prophets failed to follow it up ever. On the other hand, if your comment on this is “totally ridiculous” I’m not actually going to disagree.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 22 Sep 2006 #

    And the moon landings probably had something to do with it too.

    Important contribution to yr understanding: http://www.ezgeta.com/2525.html

  2. 2
    Magnus on 22 Sep 2006 #

    That link in Tom’s post is NSFW!

  3. 3
    Tom on 22 Sep 2006 #

    Many apologies Magnus! This is true, it has painted bosoms in it.

  4. 4
    Steve Mannion on 22 Sep 2006 #

    This is my favourite use of parentheses in a #1 single.

  5. 5
    Tom on 22 Sep 2006 #

    The touch I particularly like, btw, is the sudden switch from “6565” to “7510” in order to rhyme with “then”…OR IS IT THAT THEY KNOW SOMETHING!!

  6. 6
    jeff w on 22 Sep 2006 #

    Good joke in the movie Alien cubed (set in the year 2179 according to Wiki): the first guy to get offed is singing this song just beforehand.

  7. 7
    blount on 22 Sep 2006 #

    this has always sounded like some ridiculous apocalyptic ‘age of aquarius/let the sunshine in’ to me. somehow i never bought it’s silliness (and i’m an easy sell on silliness) and the sci-fi aspect passed me by entirely even though as that font makes clear it’s a MAJOR FACTOR in the song.

  8. 8
    GeorgeB on 23 Sep 2006 #

    Seems more in keeping with the cheesy sci-fi stuff that was standard fare on tv around this time, than the moon landings. In fact this is so awful it could almost be read as a musical rendition of an Irwin Allen tv show -the dishonest mix of affectation, melodrama and dollops of portentous claptrap. If this cheap and nasty and empty concoction deserves to be a mere 4 marks off “Grapevine”, I’m an alien.

  9. 9
    Tom on 23 Sep 2006 #

    How can it be ‘dishonest’!! We’re still 519 years off proving that?!

    More seriously, I take yr point, but I don’t think anyone could undertake this project (and stay sane) without an affection for bonkers novelty hits, so expect plenty more high marks to come.

  10. 10
    intothefireuk on 23 Sep 2006 #

    Having a big affection for ‘cheesy sci-fi’ I actually like this. For me a musical rendition of an Irwin Allen (or even a Gerry Anderson show) would not be a bad thing but judging by the responses so far I must be alone in these thoughts. I even like the font ! The only disappointment for me is that the punchline at the end is a little rushed. By punchline I mean the bit where man’s had it and ‘maybe it’s only yesterday’ and back to the beginning. Hopefully I haven’t got this wrong and it’s some sly reference to the Mccartney tune. It’s camp and it doesn’t know it and it’s all the better for it. I wouldn’t have any problem with it scoring at least an 8.

  11. 11
    GeorgeB on 23 Sep 2006 #

    Lyrically, isn’t it more about Jesus and the Bible than Macca? There are bits about the Rapture in there – which is a bit worrying, and which adds to the seriousness of it all, which is the main turn-off. Bonkers it surely is Tom, but I just don’t think it has the charm that a good novelty record needs. Apparently it was written in 64 (which puts it in the same era as Eve of Destruction? Is it a sci-fi folk song?!)and was picked up Texas radio a couple of years later and took another 3 years to reach the top.

  12. 12

    covered by LAIBACH and FIELDS OF THE NEPH!!

  13. 13
    Chris Brown on 23 Sep 2006 #

    Yeah, I’d go with “lack of charm” too. I don’t know if it’s exactly the seriousness that I’d blame for that, but there’s certainly something in there that keeps it from being likeable or even enjoyably awful in the way of most novelty classics.

    I’d give it 2.525 and that’s generous.

  14. 14
    Doctor Casino on 24 Sep 2006 #

    For god’s sake, couldn’t they have kept the years a little less outlandish? 9595, for Petes sake! Are we really to believe that it’s a millenium between the age when machines do your walking and arm movement for you, and the age when you can pick your children from a long glass tube?? Meanwhile, God “maybe” stops by in the year 7510 and considers the Rapture…but waits until the year 8510 to shake his mighty head or whatever? And it all just kind of stops dead with the year 9595, when we’re “kinda wonderin’ if man is gonna be alive”? It’s just so evident that they picked a bunch of years and randomly assigned them different spooky future things, then ran out of ideas so they filled up a few years with God being perturbed, phrased in different ways. One thing doesn’t lead to another and it all ends vaguely. All in all, totally lazy, which is fatal because the composition never does anything different – not even a “bad trip” futuristic breakdown with primitive synth noises or a theremin or something! If things are going to be this repetitious the lyrics need to be full of twists and clever surprises (see, I don’t know – Trapped In The Closet) and this isn’t cutting it at all. Bad.

  15. 15
    Lena on 25 Sep 2006 #

    This reminds me of two wholly unrelated things – the first being a piece by Robert Benchley about how one day man will evolve into something more like a catalpa tree, and the late 60s obsession with the population explosion that was to cause nothing but trouble if not outright famine and general chaos. My parents did their bit by only having me…

  16. 16
    wwolfe on 25 Sep 2006 #

    When I first heard Seals and Crofts several years later, I thought Zager and Evans had made a comeback.

    I wonder if the movie “2001” was an inspiration for this song. If so, I like to imagine Stanley Kubrick tapping his foot to this little number.

    As for myself, it’s impossible to think of this song without immediately finding myself awash in memories of my Little League baseball team celebrating its championship, because “2525” was playing on the jukebox in the restaurant where we had our post-game party. That’s probably not a common response, though.

  17. 17
    Dadaismus on 26 Sep 2006 #

    This always reminds me of that Daffy Duck cartoon, “Duck Dodgers In the 25th and a Half Century!”, what with the silly years involved 7510 9595 etc, it’s just an extremely silly song. It has the feel of “Hair” about it (a Hairy feeling) which, in itself, was a pretty silly venture. Of course, I do own the “In the Year 2525” album.

  18. 18
    Marcello Carlin on 26 Sep 2006 #

    And I own both the Broadway and London Original Cast Recording albums of Hair – the latter featuring Alex Harvey, Ray Russell and various other improv mortgage-payers in the line-up!

  19. 19
    Pete Baran on 26 Sep 2006 #

    I won’t hear anything against the soundtrack of Hair (unless it is an appreciation of it all being rather hippy and all, which is not really a bad thing, its just a thing). I think the London Cast Recording is better by the way, because it seems to rock out more. Though I would be wary of naked people rocking out quite that much…

  20. 20
    Marcello Carlin on 26 Sep 2006 #

    Has nobody told you about the Club Poptimism Christmas Special then Pete? ;-)

    The Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In medley (number one in America in ’69, only number eleven here, tut tut) I frequently think is one of the greatest things ever.

    Shame that the Cowsills never caught on in Britain because their individualistic rendition of the title song is quite perversely brilliant.

  21. 21
    Dadaismus on 26 Sep 2006 #

    I too am, as our American chums would have it, conflicted over “Hair” as I love “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver, which is undeniably silly

  22. 22
    jeff w on 26 Sep 2006 #

    Edmundo Ros’s medley “Hare Krishna – Be In” trumps all.

  23. 23
    Doctor Mod on 27 Sep 2006 #

    A song with no middle eight or bridge (does it even really have a chorus?), weird science, and wacko pseudo-theology as a backlash against The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

    (Absurdus ad nauseam)

  24. 24
    Doctor Mod on 27 Sep 2006 #

    But hey–I admit that I still like those showtunes from “Hair.”

  25. 25
    geoff on 13 Oct 2006 #

    most famous pair of dudes out of seward, nebraska. fact!

  26. 26
    Zarathustra Smith on 13 Dec 2006 #

    I don’t quite appreciate what is supposed to happen in the titular year itself. At the beginning, they intone “In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find…”

    Then they go straight into “in the year 3535”, with its nightmarish vision of pharmaceutical-induced consciousness. The conditional clauses are left dangling. The song’s called In The Year 2525, but makes no mention of what “they may find”.

  27. 27
    Al Ewing on 8 Apr 2007 #

    Obviously what happens in the year 2525 is a futurescope is invented that allows man to look into all the other future years and see what ‘they may find’ there.

  28. 28
    Indy on 3 May 2007 #

    Dear All:

    Good evening from Canada!!! I hope this finds you and yours well. As for me, I could complain…yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Whilst you all are picking “2525” apart, I do agree with Mr. Ewing in the fact that song is a futurescope that is a crystal ball into our future–into the future of man. This song also carries a warning which we all should heed in these days of global warming. The song carries the line–“We’ve taken all this old Earth can give and never put back nothin’.”

    If we don’t want bring around Earth’s early demise, we should put back all that we have taken.

    Ind.

  29. 29
    Waldo on 26 Aug 2009 #

    Well, certainly their warning about “some machine will be doing that for you” has long since kicked in, which begs the question as to why Zager and Evans plumped for such ridiculous years so far in the future, as by doing this, they couldn’t even smugly turn to the world and say “What did I tell you, assholes?” when Private Fraser was finally proved right.

    As has been mentioned, this was actually recorded for a couple of bucks in 1964 and was thus not of its moon landing time. Once RCA grabbed it, though, the project spreadeagled and the two obscure folkies had a monstor on their hands. Despite it’s many ludicrous moments (“I’m kinda wonderin’ if Man is gonna be alive” is a ripper), 2525 retains a strange and powerful dignity and it obviously resonated with many. As for me, I’m not kinda wonderin’ about anything so absurdly far in the future. I’m only concerned with where my next bevvy is coming from.

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 15 Dec 2009 #

    Covered by Laibach, Fields of Neph, and Visage, AND Ian Brown!

    I picked up Zager & Evans’ album a few years back. From memory it was all bad novelty songs, as in sick bad: it’s hard to believe RCA sanctioned Mr Turnkey – a rapist’s suicidal confession – as the follow up to an international no.1. And Z&E set the lyric in August 1969, as if to indicate we’re already on the slippery slope signposted in their first single – no need to wait 1500 or so years for a vision of hell.

    I’ll go with Waldo’s “strange and powerful dignity”, something it borrows from the similarly constructed Sound Of Silence, then magnifies.

  31. 31
    Dispela Pusi on 22 Dec 2010 #

    Not so much the moon landings themselves, as those unforgettable, never-before-seen images of lil’ ol’ Planet Earth taken from thousands of miles away.

    Suddenly we began to realise that that was all we had, one small blue and white dot in the middle of all that immense void. No coincidence, I think, that The Environment and its wellbeing became such hot topics in a very short space of time.

    Someone, somewhere figured that the apocalyptic tone of this record was nicely in tune with the zeitgeist …. and there we were.

  32. 32
    Buffie on 24 Jun 2011 #

    Way to go on this essay, heepld a ton.

  33. 33
    mapman132 on 20 Feb 2014 #

    Also #1 in the US where it was in fact on the famous date of July 20, 1969. At one time considered America’s “ultimate” one hit wonder – six weeks at the top and no other Hot 100 entries. Not sure off the top of my head if this dubious record has been bested in the Soundscan era. I was actually under the impression they hadn’t recorded anything else at all so I was unaware of the full album and two additional singles. I kind of like this record, but it is definitely very bizarre.

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