‘In the Year 2525’ — Zager and Evans, August 1969
When Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first of eight million eventual test-tube babies, was born in England in 1978, news audiences everywhere probably equated the amazing story to a science-fiction movie.
Music fans, however, actually had been offered a preview of the milestone event in 1969 in a science-fiction song.
Halfway through the hit “In the Year 2525” are lyric lines predicting life in 6565 — “You’ll pick your sons, pick your daughters too, from the bottom of a long glass tube.”
Told in increments of 1,010 years — from 2525 to 9595 — the tune was fraught with post-apocalyptic and nightmarish visions of life dominated by dehumanizing, soul-less technology.
Denny Zager, who was born in 1944, and Rick Evans, who was born in 1943, met in 1962 at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln when Evans joined the Eccentrics, Zager’s frat-rock band. The group eventually disbanded.
Zager and Evans continued as a folk duo after swapping electric guitars for acoustic models.
In 1964, Evans composed in 30 minutes what would become the pair’s lone claim to fame. “In the Year 2525” would probably never have been a success in a year when the Beatles were innocently shouting “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Five years later, though, political assassinations, a growing anti-war sentiment and inner-city rioting had created a downbeat mood that cast a pall across the nation.
Zager and Evans had become a popular lounge act at a Lincoln motel. One of their most-requested numbers was Evans’ quirky “In the Year 2525.”
The pair soon decided that the song could become a hit single and, with a borrowed $500, they recorded “In the Year 2525” on the tiny Truth Records label. Copies were mailed to every major record company; RCA Records, sensing a potential winner, quickly signed the scruffy twosome.
In less than a month, “2525” rocketed to No. 1 nationally, where it stayed for six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was No. 1 on the charts the day that Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for a man” on July 20, 1969.
By year’s end, “2525” had sold four million singles.
Zager and Evans never again cracked the hit charts. This might have been due to “Mr. Turnkey” — their follow-up song.
The unfortunate choice told the story of a rapist, who nails his left wrist to a jail cell wall to atone for his crime. The subject was hardly Top 40 fare.
Three more RCA offerings died, as did 45s on the White Whale and Vanguard labels.
The musical pals called it a day in 1974. Zager stayed in Lincoln to teach music and build custom guitars, while Evans wrote more songs (unsuccessfully) before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Evans then put his guitars in a closet and left the music business altogether.
“In the Year 2525” has been recorded in seven languages and has sold 10 million copies.
Could Evans have possibly seen at least some of the future correctly in his one-hit wonder? As the old saying goes, only time will tell.