'In The Year 2525' by Zager and Evans: The making of the chart-topping sci-fi masterpiece
23 February 2023, 13:45
In 1969, two little-known performers released one of the ultimate one-hit wonders.
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'In the Year 2525' is one of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time.
Released the same summer that Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon, the track perfectly captured a moment in time when it seemed as though the future was rushing towards us and everything was in flux.
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But do you know who wrote the song or what it's actually about, and do you know what happened to Zager and Evans after their massive hit?
Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about 'In The Year 2525'.
Who wrote and played on 'In The Year 2525'?
In the Year 2525' – or 'In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)' to give the song its full name – was written by Rick Evans, one half of the duo Zager and Evans formed with fellow musician Denny Zager.
Zager and Evans had first met way back in 1962 at Nebraska Wesleyan University, initially being joined by future Benders player Danny Schindler on drums.
Schindler had to leave because of the Vietnam war in '65, and Evans also quit the fledgling group, but Zager and Evans reunited in 1968, this time joined by Mark Dalton on bass.
Paul Maher joined on drums, but was replaced by Dave Trupp.
It was this lineup of Zager and Evans on guitars and vocals, backed by Dalton on bass and Trupp on drums that recorded 'In The Year 2525', produced by Tommy Allsup and with additional instruments from The Odessa Symphony.
What is 'In The Year 2525' about?
Despite its fantastical nature, 'In The Year 2525' is pretty straightforward.
It opens by speculating if mankind will still be knocking about in 550 odd years ("if man is still alive, if woman can survive"), before ratcheting it up a thousand years or so every verse with things getting increasingly dystopian.
There's thought pills in 3535, nothing to look at or eat in 4545, machines taking over our arms and legs in 555, test tube babies in 6565, a possible apocalypse in 7510 and so on...
The song has a definite environmental bent ("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 nothing"), as we slide towards our inevitable extinction, and things loop back round again.
And if you were wondering, "Exordium" is a posh way of saying "beginning", and "Terminus" a fancy way of saying "ending", both derived from Latin, of course.
When was 'In The Year 2525' released and where did it get in the charts?
'In The Year 2525' was first released on the local Truth label in either late 1968 or early 1969... details are hazy.
What's clear is that it was a big local hit, which prompted a proper national release of a slightly tweaked version by RCA Victor in April 1969.
It swiftly scaled the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts on July 12, 1969 – eight days before Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon – where it stayed for six weeks.
Over in the UK, the song reached number one on August 30, 1969, where it stayed for three weeks.
'In The Year 2525' was a global hit, also topping the charts in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
What happened to Zager and Evans after 'In The Year 2525'
Some artists are unfairly dismissed as "one-hit wonders" despite actually notching up a few other successful singles.
2 Unlimited? Eight top ten UK singles and 14 that went Top 40. Whigfield? Three top tens and five top 40s. Even Rednex had two Top 20 hits (the other one was 'Old Pop in An Oak', which reached number 12 in March 1995).
Zager and Evans were real one-hit wonders though.
After 'In The Year 2525', follow-ups 'Mr. Turnkey and 'Listen to the People' failed to chart, as did 'Help One Man Today', 'Yeah 32', 'Crutches', 'Plastic Park' and 'Hydra 15,000'.
That makes Zager and Evans the ONLY act in history to get a number one on both sides of the Atlantic yet never have another charting in the UK or US after that.
An album 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) did reach number 30 in the US, but the following year's Zager & Evans missed the charts completely, as did Vanguard Recordings release Food For The Mind and the duo disbanded in 1971.
Evans teamed up with Pam Herbert for the I Need This Song album, and later released the solo album Fun Songs, Think Songs that mixed up new material and re-recordings of his work with Zager.
Evans then retired from public life, and died in February 2018, while Zager is in a more constructive part of the music industry, building custom guitars in Lincoln Nebraska to this day.
Who has covered 'In The Year 2525'?
With its evocative lyrics, 'In The Year 2525' has been used in plenty of movies and TV shows, either in its original form or rewritten, including Alien 3, Millennium, Cleopatra 2525 and Futurama.
Zager and Evans recorded their own Italian version 'Nell'Anno 2033', but the most high profile covers by other artists are probably Visage's version in 1983 and former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown's 2009 interpretation.