(well, it’s already past midnight somewhere, like Nova Scotia for example. So I’m getting an early start on the day from the Central time zone.)
Fifty-odd years ago was an exciting time of change, not only socially but scientifically as well with Apollo 11 on its way to the moon. In the past, we looked at one song from that year of fascination with the changes (“Space Oddity”), today we look at another one which examined the technological march forward… through slightly more cynical eyes. Perhaps the One Hit Wonder of the ’60s, “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans, hit #1 on Billboard this day in 1969.
The duo was Denny Zager and Rick Evans, a pair of guitarists who’d met at university in Nebraska in the early-’60s. They formed a band, and although they supplemented their sound with several changing members on drums and bass, they were clearly the focus and leadership of the act allmusic describe as a “psych-pop duo.” A duo which hit it big with this, their first single and title track of their debut album.
The oddball tune incorporating both psychedelic rock and folk elements, plus some Spanish bullfighting horns for an added element, was written by Evans a few years earlier. He was certainly not a fan of mankind’s constant scientific breakthroughs. The song starts in the year 2525, and moves forward in jumps of a thousand or so years per verse, depicting an ever-more 1984ish future with technology taking over, until God “is gonna shake His mighty head” in the year 8510 and presumably start over. Surprisingly his dystopian future included elements already a part of our modern life including robots doing our work and “test tube” babies. Quite a contrast to some of the year’s other chart-toppers like “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies!
They recorded the tune in a small studio in Odessa, Texas with the Odessa Symphony (I know, I’m as surprised as you about the city having one!) helping out with the strings. Zager and Evans both sing lead on the single, which would spend six weeks on top in the U.S., tying the equally new agey “Age of Aquarius” for the most weeks at #1 that year. The song also got to #1 in Canada and the UK and was hands down, the highlight of their career. Although they put out a couple more albums in the following two years, they never charted significantly again making them apparently the only act ever to have a song hit #1 in both the States and Britain and never make the hit parade again in either.
Rick Evans has kept a low profile since, but Denny Zager started and runs a custom-built guitar company these days.