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Rock Duo Had 2525 Vision At the End of the Sixties

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The Zager and Evans Hit Was Just One of Many To Fear the Future in 1969

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They say hindsight is 20/20, so it could be that 2525 was foresight. Rather than a ratio used by opticians, the four digit number is a song about the future.

“In the Year 2525” is the only Top 40 hit by the musical duo Zager and Evans, who first met sixty years ago. Denny Zager and Rick Evans were both attending Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1962, quickly connecting through music. Evans wrote “In the Year 2525” just two years later, only the song was shelved until it was discovered by a radio station in 1969.

Men were walking on the moon, colored televisions had infiltrated nearly every living room in America, and cassette players were beginning to appear in cars. Whether the technological advances were welcome arrivals or not, the rapidly changing society caused much unease throughout the world.

The Zager and Evans song reflected that very fear, as it made uncomfortable predictions about the existence of mankind. Some of the advances mentioned in the song have already been realized only a half century after its hit number one, yet other fears can now be viewed as nothing more than a writer's paranoia.

“You'll pick your son, your daughter, too from the bottom of long, glass tube,” Zager sings in verse two, a fear that did indeed become fact before the end of the next decade. “He's taken everything this old earth can give, and he ain't put back nothing” is just as factual as the preceding line.

With a little metaphorical license, you could also see how another line has materialized to the detriment of mankind.

“Everything you think, do or say, is in the pill that you took today,” a prediction in verse four, seems to be correct when you consider social media to be the pill.

Permeating through the nine verses is a sense of doom for the future of mankind, whose demise is the result of disregard for the environment and obsession with technology. The music serves to reinforce the looming disaster, as it builds amid pulsating, repetitive electric guitar and ominous horns.

The B-side is nearly the opposite, both thematically and musically. “Little Kids” shows Evans looking back, rather than ten thousand years into the future. He recalls when he and a girl were small, playing together with all the precious innocence of childhood.

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Unlike the hit, the B-Side features almost no electric instruments. 2525 seems driven by a marching drum with electric guitar and all sorts of horns, but “Little Kids” is basically bare bones with just an acoustic guitar. A piano can be faintly heard in front of the percussion of a metronome, which seems to be tracking time as the kids grow.

Even though the B-side was a much happier song, it was the dire piece about the fate of man that hit number one in 1969. Whether it was because the end of the Sixties was approaching or the idea that society was changing much too quickly, listeners seemed to connect with the message in “The Year 2525.”

To further illustrate this fear for the future through music, examine the other songs in the Top Ten behind Zager and Evans. Credence Clearwater Revival expressed foresaw similar trouble ahead with the number three song, “Bad Moon Rising.”

Country star Roy Clark cashed in on the fear of the future, appealing to the innocence and happier times of the recent past. “Yesterday When I Was Young,” proved to be Clark's biggest hit on the pop Top Ten chart, as people were preferring to look back instead of ahead.

Younger days were also the subject of the number seven song, Bobby Vinton's “The Days of Sand and Shovels.” As the title suggests, the characters in the hit prefer to recall the past rather than confront an uncertain future.

“When I looked at her she smiled and showed a place where two teeth used to be,” Vinton sings. “An I heard her ask her mom if she could come outside and play with me.”

Even The Beatles, who should have been optimistic for solo careers after their very recent breakup, were looking more favorably on the past. Their “Get Back” was resting at number eight, a song that seemed to suggest a desire to press rewind rather than fast forward.

Some of the gloom oozing in the Top Ten hits did indeed materialize in the next few decades, including as 2525 had predicted the test tube birth and the onslaught of robots replacing many jobs. True, some of the predictions like the uselessness of legs and mates have not come true as we enter the sixth decade after the song hit number one.

Keep in mind, though, we still have another 500 years, or 10,000 according to the last verse, to truly evaluate the accuracy of the predictions.


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