♫ 25 Or 6 To 4 ♫

This song has a strange title, and an equally strange history, but I love, love, love the horns in it.  Released in 1970, this song was written by Robert Lamm, who is a keyboard player and singer for Chicago.  It’s about trying to write a song, with the title referring to the time of day: either 3:35 a.m. (25 to 4) or 3:34 a.m. (26 to 4).  Confused yet?  According to Lamm …

“I was living with a bunch of hippies up above Sunset Strip. One of the advantages of this particular house was that it was in the Hollywood Hills and I could look out over the city late at night. I wanted to try to describe the process of writing the song that I was writing. So, ‘waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say, flashing lights against the sky’ – there was a neon sign across the city. That song came from the fact that it was 25 or 6 to 4 a.m. in the morning when I looked at my watch – I was looking for a line to finish the chorus.

Most songs that were written, especially in the early days, whenever I got them to the band and we started rehearsing them, that’s when the songs took shape – once these guys got hold of them. There was definitely a lot of raw material, I thought it was a song when I wrote the words down, I wrote the changes down and I brought the charts to rehearsal, but it wasn’t really a song until they all played it.”

Chicago was previously known as Chicago Transit Authority, which was the name of their first album. They shortened their name after the actual Chicago transit authority objected, and began releasing albums with their name followed by a roman numeral (Chicago II, Chicago III, Chicago IV, etc.).

Peter Cetera is the lead singer on this version.  After he left the  band in 1985, Chicago recorded an updated version for their album Chicago 18 with Jason Scheff singing lead, but I much prefer the original.

Interestingly, the song was banned in Singapore in 1970 due to “alleged allusions to drugs”; the ban extended to entire albums including the song, such as Chicago 18. In 1993, the ban on this song was lifted, along with long-time bans on songs by other artists such as the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

25 or 6 to 4

Waiting for the break of day
Searching for something to say
Dancing lights againnst the sky
Giving up I close my eyes
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
25 or 6 to 4

Staring blindly into space
Getting up to splash my face
Wanting just to stay awake
Wondering how much I can take
Should have tried to do some more
25 or 6 to 4

Feeling like I ought to sleep
Spinning room is sinking deep
Searching for something to say
Waiting for the break of day
25 or 6 to 4
25 or 6 to 4

Songwriters: Robert Lamm
25 or 6 to 4 lyrics © Spirit Music Group, BMG Rights Management

25 thoughts on “♫ 25 Or 6 To 4 ♫

  1. Jill, the perplexing song, but a great one. When it first came out, we were all clueless. There was no Googling the answer. But, it is a bolt of lightning song with the guitar into and blaring horns. When we saw them live about ten years ago, the horns were center stage, with the singers off to the side. That is fitting. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes … I remember life before Google … barely. 😉 This is one song where the lyrics don’t really much matter, for the instruments are the stars of the show. Yes, the horns at center stage is perfectly fitting.


  2. I mean no offense to the fantastic Peter Cetera, but this song is a favorite not for the lyrics and his voice…it’s the music!! This has got to be one of, if not the very best guitar solos ever recorded! I remember how proud I was when I could play it on my acoustic guitar, those same arthritic fingers could never master it now. Admittedly, it sounds much better on electric as opposed to acoustic… but acoustic was the guitar of my time and all I ever learned to play. Then there are those not to be diminished horns, they added so much power to the music. I believe this to be the masterpiece from Chicago, even considering they have many excellent songs to choose from. Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on this one … for me it is all about the instruments. I LOVE the horns, and the guitar solo. I’m trying to picture you playing it on your acoustic … I would have loved to hear that! I’m so glad you liked this one!!!


  3. Hi Jill,
    This is one of the few songs in which the music is more important than the words, IMO. The words are nice, but ultimately without meaning. So many things go through your mind circa 3:30 AM but they never seem to stick. The music, on the other hand, is not about waiting for day to break, that would be slow and boring. (Daybreak takes forever when you want it to come, lol.) The music speaks to your blood burbling through your body, your thoughts racing uninhibited through your mind. Great thoughts, or so they seem at 25 or 6 to 4! Two or three hours later, in the light of the sun, you cannot even remember them…

    Liked by 1 person

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