Zager and Evans in 2525 with Mr. Turnkey

28 Feb

Is it 2525 yet?

Zager and Evans represent one of the best examples of a 60s one-hit wonder. “In The Year 2525,” the repetitive, crescendoing, folk exploration of a future dystopia where humans are indolent and dependent on machines, was such a gigantic hit in the year 1969 that people still recognize it as one of the better folk compositions of the 60s in the year 2012.

Let’s give the song some credit. It claimed the #1 spot on the U.S. Hot 100 for six weeks. That is a difficult feat. It sold over four million copies in a year. To say things were looking up for the folk duo in 1970 would be an understatement. So what happened? Why did the duo not have another big hit. The answer to this question is simple. How about we take a look at the history of Zager and Evans prior to answering it?

Denny Zager and Rick Evans met at Nebraska Wesleyan University and founded The Eccentrics with drummer Danny Schindler. When Schindler left for Vietnam in 1965, the Eccentrics just became Zager and Evans, and the duo added bassist Mark Dalton and drummer Dave Trupp. The 2525 warning followed soon after. The song was actually written in 1964, but it was first released by Truth Records in 1968. It received a good amount of local radio play and then RCA signed the band and the song blew up.

Now, realistically, the advancements in technology that Zager and Evans talk of in the verses of the song – which gradually rise in close-to 1,000 year segments – could probably come to fruition prior to 2525 (to a point of course). I find it funny that they mention test-tube babies (nice premonition guys) for the year 6565, but a pill that does everything by 3535. Actually, there is a flaw in the lyric, because if there is a pill that controls everything you do in 3535, then why would you need to pick your baby in 6565 – the pill would just do it for you, right? Okay, I’ll stop my over-analysis now.

My favorite lyric from the song is the final verse:

Now it’s been ten thousand years,
Man has cried a billion tears
For what he never knew.
Now man’s reign is through.
But through eternal night,
The twinkling of starlight,
So very far away,
Maybe it’s only yesterday 

This final lyric suggests the circular nature of human existance. It’s creative and an excellent ending touch to the song.

Many people do not realize that Zager and Evans didn’t just record the apocalyptic classic and then stop making music. After the success of the song, the band released a follow-up single, “Mr. Turnkey,” a song about a rapist who nails his wrist to his prison cell because he is sorry for…wait, back up, what!?!

Yes, Zager and Evans followed up their cautionary tale of the future, with a slowed-down piece about a rapist. I don’t know why either. It also features one of the oddest descriptions of pulchritude in modern rock history, “she was lovelier than oil rights.” Take the melody, and it’s a beautiful song, but add the lyric, and it is disturbing (kind of Pink Floyd-esque with that). I have to think the release was a joke because if not, well, I just don’t know. The scary thing, though, is that the song is actually pretty good. Take a listen.

So why did the band not achieve any more success after “In The Year 2525?” Because of “Mr. Turnkey?” Well, I guess that it may have played a part. I think it is more because of how big of a hit “In The Year 2525” was. It has difficult to follow up a first release that spends six weeks on the Hot 100 charts. But Zager and Evans should still be heralded for their release of one of the iconic songs of the late 60s, and a blatant song about a rapist.

4 Responses to “Zager and Evans in 2525 with Mr. Turnkey”

  1. John Phillips February 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Zager and Evans, wow. I think I might have the 45 kicking around here somewhere. That song was amazing in it’s ballistic life, kind of like an early My Sharona.

  2. Codi Preston D. July 3, 2019 at 1:26 am #

    You have got to be kidding me, right?? After “In The Year 2525” was a hit, this was probably the WORST thing that Zager and Evans could have written. I used to like “In THe Year 2525” when I was 20 years old in 1996 or 1997, but now 22 years later, I can’t see why that song even reached #10, let alone #1. But “Mister Turkney” so bad, so, so, so bad – and all my friends who lived back in the 1960s say so even!! (I wasn’t around in the 1960s; I was born in 1976, so I am 43 now). The song “Mister Turnkey” is so bad that it makes me almost want me to snort and blow my nose in laughter. Of all the songs that could be, that was the worst pick of a song for Zager and Evans. It didn’t even crack Billboard Top 100 – thus, it wasn’t even a hit. That song basically more or less destroyed the career of Zager and Evans and we never heard from them again. The song was so bad that it prematurely ended their group (or duo, should I say), and they disbanded faster than the rapist in their song died bleeding from his wounds from nailing himself to the jail cell wall. LOL. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a worse song ever. Well….maybe I have, I can think of one: “The Christmas Shoes” by NewSong. If I ever hear that song again, please put me out of my misery. LOL. I mean, gee, an 8 year old boy wanting to buy a pair of shoes so his Mommy can look pretty tonight when she goes to Heaven?? First, what 8 year old would be out with his little sister in a department store looking for a pair of shoes for his mom, ALONE?? The police would be called. And he doesn’t have enough money, so a stranger pays the difference. Hm-hmmm. Okay. And if your mom was dying, wouldn’t you spend whatever remaining time she had left on Earth with her instead of looking for some shoes she could wear to Heaven? But I don’t know which is worse, The Christmas Shoes, or “Mister Turnkey”. I didn’t even hear “Mister Turnkey” till I was 39 maybe. I think I’d rather even listen to “My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry 10 times over than listen to Mister Turnkey again. Zager and Evans might have done just as well if they had named it “Mister TURKEY”. It was a turkey, with no chance of getting even into Top 100 on Billboard. In comparison, I love “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris (1968) which a lot of people really hate, so who am I to say? But at least “MacArthur Park” was a #2 hit; “Mister Turnkey” never even got into Top 100!! The “Mister Turnkey” song makes “Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro sounds like “It’s A Small World” at Disneyland!!! LOL. But whatever. After all, I’m just a 43 year old with higher functioning Classic Autism, so what do I know?? I also happen to be very knowledgeable with all oldies songs from the 1950s to the 1980s. I know almost every song during that time period virtually. I am an assistant volunteer / co-host of Preschooler Storytime for 3 to 5 year olds at my local library and I have been every week for the past 15 years. I played “Mister Turnkey” for my librarian friend (who I do Storytime with) in the car one day when we were going to lunch. Definitely three thumbs down for sure. Like I said, the song ended their career faster than the main character in the song died. Take care – Codi Preston D. from California

  3. Codi Preston D. July 3, 2019 at 1:32 am #

    From this page:

    https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/every-billboard-1-hit-discussion-thread-1958-present.496101/page-248

    Someone commented, and I quote:

    “The Worst Rock & Roll Records of All Time book misspelled that title as “Mr. Turkey.” Which I suppose, in terms of their subsequent career trajectory, was apropos. Again, I quote: “The narrator didn’t bleed to death until after the song ended, roughly the same time Denny and Rick went their separate ways.”

    LOL

    Take care – Codi Preston D.

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