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Sep 06

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

FT + Popular35 comments • 3,174 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.

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Comments

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  1. 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”.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 32
    Buffie on 24 Jun 2011 #

    Way to go on this essay, heepld a ton.

  8. 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.

  9. 34
    lonepilgrim on 12 May 2017 #

    There’s something hypnotic to the static Spanish strum – but the lyrics sound laughable now. I wonder how much Bowie borrowed from this for ‘Five Years’ – although his apocalyptic lyric works better for being rooted in everyday life and being sung with a rising sense of hysteria

  10. 35
    Jimmy the Swede on 17 May 2017 #

    #34 – Not all the lyrics are laughable. “Some machine is doing that for you” is scarily right on the money.

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