♫ 25 Or 6 To 4 ♫ (Redux)

A night or so ago, my friend Jerry suggested this song.  I thought I had played it here a few times, but turns out I only played it once, back in 2019.  So, here is tonight’s redux and I promise to try to come up with something I haven’t played before by the end of the week!


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
Chicago

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

35 thoughts on “♫ 25 Or 6 To 4 ♫ (Redux)

  1. Jill, like The Doobie Brothers’s “China Grove,” Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” has a notable guitar lick which is captivating.. Chicago then hits the audience with their terrific horns. We debated in high school the origin of the song’s title, although once you know, you say of course that’s it.

    Chicago had such good musicians, they survived Peter Cetera’s leaving. I always enjoyed their earlier work more, but their quality on later albums was still good. We saw them after Cetera left and they were still entertaining. Keith

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    • I believe it was the other time I played this that you mentioned “China Grove”, which I later played! Yes, Chicago did survive Cetera’s leaving … something few other banks likely would have. I do love much of their music … perhaps I’ll play more of it soon! Maybe even Saturday … 😉

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  2. Not sure if it made the charts down here in Aotearoa. I certainly don’t recall it, but then I’m seldom drawn to brass instrumentation. In general I find the tones too harsh for my liking. It’s a good thing that we don’t all like the same music. That would make life so dull 🙂

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    • Ahhhh … the brass is what I love most about this one. Did Chicago play well in Aotearoa at all? I’m always interested in what people in other countries liked or didn’t like. Did you guys like Elton … or Stevie Wonder? Yes, music is like that … we all have our own tastes, often without any discernible reason, and it definitely keeps it interesting! My eyes have been opened to some music I had never heard before through those who follow my music posts and make suggestions.

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      • So far the only entry I can find for CHICAGO in the NZ charts of that era is for their track “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, and that was on the charts for one week only on February 12, 1971 where it was placed at #17. I have no recollection of it so out of curiosity, I searched it on YouTube, and it too is a style I don’t fancy.

        Unfortunately at that time there were no “official” charts by the music recording/publishing/distribution organisations, and no one thought to keep records of local charts (often local record sales or popularity on a particular radio station) for posterity. So what info is rather hit and miss reconstructed decades later from enthusiastic chart followers of the time.

        In the late 60s, early 70s I was still into the psychedelic sound such as Whiter Shade Of Pale (Procal Harum), Arnold Lane (Pink Floyd), and distinctively NZ music such as Nature (Fourmyula), Pink Frost (The Chills), Tears (Crocodiles), Out On The Street (Space Waltz), Victoria (Dance Exponents), and 1905 (Shona Laing). For music that had an international flavour, it was the likes of Bridge Over Troubled water (Simon and Garfunkel), I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top (The Hollies), My Woman’s Man (Dave Dee) and Lola (The Kinks) that caught my attention.

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        • Hmmmm … of all those you named, I’m only familiar with “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. I guess our tastes aren’t quite the same, eh? Do you like Elton John and Stevie Wonder?

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          • I prefer Elton John slightly more than Stevie Wonder, but neither artist would be in my to 20. I think our tastes are different, although there are tracks we both like. What I like about your music selections is the fact that I am unfamiliar with many of them and of those I have a passing acquaintance with, you frequently cast them in a new light. Kind of a musical adventure 🙂

            One thing I have learnt from your selections is that many of the tracks you select were covered here by local artists and their renditions sometimes differ markedly from the American version.

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            • Indeed, we have somewhat different tastes, but that’s the very thing I love about doing my music posts … I learn new sounds, artists, and songs from you guys! I am really glad that you enjoy my music posts, and am surprised to learn that many are covered in NZ by local artists that put their own spin on the songs. What would the world be if we didn’t have music?

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  3. A real piece of classic rock from their best days, before they went into mushy MOR stuff. Everything about this was great, and the album was pretty good too: it actually did better in chart terms here than it did over there. They had something a little different about them, and I and most of my mates thought they were one of the best new bands around.

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