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25 Or 6 To 4

by

Chicago



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This 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 3:35AM (25 to 4) or 3:34AM (26 to 4). Lamm explained on The Chris Isaak Hour: "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 4am 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."
This quickly became a showcase song for Chicago's horn section, which featured on many of their hits from the '60s and '70s. Three of the founding members that have been with the band since its inception are trumpet player Lee Loughnane, sax player Walter Parazaider, and trombonist James Pankow.
There are a lot of unsubstantiated rumors regarding the meaning behind this song's lyrics. A popular rumor is that "6 to 4" was a nickname for LSD, because if you dropped acid at 6 PM, the effects of the drug would wear off by 4 AM, 10 hours later.
This still gets a lot of play by college pep bands. The horns and tempo make it a great fit for sporting events.
The band 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.). They did this throughout their career, even as they morphed from horn-driven rock to adult contemporary ballads ("Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry," "Baby What A Big Surprise") in the '80s.
This is usually the last song Chicago plays at their concerts. On their tours with Earth, Wind & Fire, both bands usually play it as the encore. (thanks, Deek - Livingston, TX)
Chicago
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Comments (111):

25 or 624...... the image s of society, cross leg on the floor. the sign of knowledge. forms of this most talented band put into words. n the talent of voice n instruments.
- Kimberly, Landing, NJ
It may have been mentioned, but Babe, I'm gonna Leave You was NOT written by Led Zeppelin. Also, Will from Easton, PA you, sir are a fool to say that Zeppelin were no talent hacks(my words). They were a very balls out and driving type of band. This often comes across as less polished than some other bands, but there are few, if any other bands that can match them for musicality. Open your ears AND your soul.
- Guy, Benson, NC
I guess no one has ever heard the song "Walk-Don't Run" by the Ventures, a big hit years BEFORE Led Zep had "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You". Same chord progression as "25 Or 6 To 4". One of the previous posters was right; everybody is influenced by what they've heard, consequently, musicians 'borrow', or are inspired by what came before.
- John, Dallas, TX
Ha, ha you guys are killing me with this so-and-so ripped off so-and-so, give me a break. Please. Doesn't anyone realize this chord progression is one of the most used and abused in rock music? Randy Jackson of Zebra once did and interesting demonstration of an XM radio boneyard concert where he was explaining where he came up with the song "Tell Me What You Want". He played snippets of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" segued into "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and then to "25 or 6 to 4" and finally to "Tell Me What You Want" and you can see the obvious connection. So if Chicago ripped off Zeppelin, then Zeppelin ripped off the Beatles, but that has been going on since music began, should be no surprise to anyone. Why not just enjoy the music. By the way, the clip can be found on Zebra's website.
- Rob, Duluth, GA
Okay - Check this out Triva People - "25 or 6 to 4" by Robert Lamm - Chicago is very close to "Horse" or "Love Is Alright" 1968 by Cliff Nobles & Co. .. "Horse" is the Instrumental B Side version to The Singles A Side "Love Is Alright" So Chicago also took a play from Cliff Nobles... Great Timeless Hit no matter what decade.. This was a topic of conversation at our Class Reunion Committee party.
- Turp, Bham, AL
The references surely can be interpreted with poetic license. However Hoffman, and Leary, Owsley, Kesey, et al tried LSD because the experience was beyond description. Also LSD was not made illegal untill after 1967, the year this song was written. (Led Zepplin's BIGLY was written in 1969.) What Gary in Chicago wrote holds true, especially for those who have had the experience. Correction however. LSD as manufactured illicitly is not pure and contains substances that are "speedy" and keep you awake. You could take some acid and go to sleep early then wake up an hour later to CCR's "Lookin' Out Your Back Door". LSD crosslinks the senses, so reducing input by closing your eyes can lessen the intensity of hallucinations. Friends on acid babble when they talk, sitting on the floor keeps you from running into things. LSD's action was about 6 hours. Short term tolerance (24 hours) meant you would have to take 2x/3x when you were coming down to get the same (but lower quality) high. Too much sensory input and you could get a "bad trip" which is emotionally wrenching. To cancel the LSD high one would take tranquilizers, quite often methylqualone or Qualudes (or 'Ludes for short) which were large flat yellow tablets with the numbers 624 on them, hence 25 or 624, should I continue the trip or stop it.
- Steve, Seattle, WA
Hey from Will, Easton, PA f--k YOU
until you learn to play guitar and realize what a genious Jimmy Page is, shut your stupid f--kin mouth.
- Ociee117, Rochester, MN
wow...so what if the song 25 r 624 is about drugs?? so what?! When the song was written it was during an era of drug use in the United States, and actually wasa period of time of really great bands and music. I have personally seen/attended over 100 rock concerts of that time: Eric Clapton,Traffic,Osibisa,Doors, Rolling Stones, Savoy Brown,Moody Blues, Frank Zappa, even Earth, Wind and Fire as an OPENING ACT ..outstanding bands and musi. The music of today and of the past STOLE from everybody...more on a personal level; the song 25 or 624, played by my high school band,poweredour school to a city and state football championship, and let me tell you, to hear those horns as dynamics was like being energized !!!!!!!So just stop with the analizing CRAP...music can mean what the listener interprets it as ........
- ERIC, Los Angeles, NV
That's funny. Its all about LSD or Coke!? Too many of you on these sites. Not every song is about drugs or lost loves. I personally think its about staying up too late studying for finals or working till the wee hours of the morning. Splashing water on my face just trying to stay awake. wondering if i should just give up feeling like i ought to sleep. wanting just to stay awake. 25 or (2)6 to 4 am. only a few hours to go before my exam. I think they were all cramming for finals.
- John, Acworth, GA
Here is a kooky take on the song. LSD is known as LSD-25. Montana penal code calls a 624 (45-5-624) the unlawful attempt to purchase or possession of intoxicating substance. So 25r624 refers to debating on whether to buy LSD in Montana because it is illegal. Long story short, I guess you can make a song be anything the listener wants.
- Don, B G, KY
Here is a kooky take on the song. LSD is known as LSD-25. Montana penal code calls a 624 (45-5-624)
- Don, B G, KY
One of the greatest rock songs in history...How in God's name is this band not in the R.R. HOF but Madonna, Johnny Cash and 50 other people I have never even heard of are? OK, so after 1985 they basically sold out but for 20 years they were one of the best bands in the world.
- john, Grand Island, NY
The whole Zeppelin v. Chicago fiasco is interesting to me so I did some research and found some info for those interested:

Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" was recorded Aug 1969 and released June 1970

Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" was recorded Oct 1968 and released in January 1969

So Zeppelin not only recorded BIGTLY earlier they released it before Chicago had recorded 25r624.

There is a strong possibility Chicago were influenced by listening to Zeppelin on the radio since BIGLY would have been on the airways for atleast 7 months! So yeah Chicago ripped of Zeppelin, but I would expect not intentionally. Maybe they felt that riffs wern't something that belonged to one group but the whole music community.

what about BIGLY itself? Was it ripped of another artist? Well, depend on what part your talking about. The lyrics were taken from another song by that sounded nothing like BIGLY. The MUSIC however is original to Jimmy Page. In fact it was one of the songs he was working on before forming zeppelin and worked with other artist in brief.

We also have to keep in mind that Jimmy Page was a studio session guitarist before his fame, where he was employed by a LOT of bands to play guitar in studios, and he is unoffically credited with a LOT of riffs that upcoming bands used in their songs but never gave him credit or royalties. Maybe he is entitled to use some of the riffs...don'cha'think?
- Schain, Austin, FL
I can't believe I'm the only one with this exact reference. This is beyond all question a reference to LSD. I will show EXACTLY where it came from.

Consider this line..
"Should I try to do some more 25 or 6 to 4?"
Read it as "Should I try to drop some more acid?"

Here is my proof:

In the movie Captain Newman, MD (1963), Gregory Peck injects a patient with a drug, and there is close up of the bottle. The label says "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, 25 or 6 to 4" I have seen this scene at least three times.

It is not totally clear what the term means. 25 is easy to explain: The term LSD comes from the initials of the German for lysergic acid diethylamide, or Lysersäure Diethylamid. "The number "25" following it has many myths attached to it, such as it was the 25th form of LSD that Hofmann tried, or it was his 25th attempt to make LSD. From my own experience with chemical companies that are allied with pharmaceutical houses, I had assumed that the chemical name (which might be a mouthful for the pharmacologist) was simply replaced with a pronounceable code number equivalent. But the answer here is yet simpler. Hofmann, in his LSD, My Problem Child wrote: "In 1938, I produced the twenty fifth substance in a series of lysergic acid derivatives: lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD-25 ... for laboratory usage."
http://www.erowid.org/library/books_online/tihkal/tihkal26.shtml

(But then at the same document we find a possible clue:)

"Within a few years of the discovery of the extraordinary potency of LSD, a large number of close analogues were synthesized by Hofmann and his allies at Sandoz. Over the following decade many were tested in humans, both in patients and healthy subjects, with the qualitative descriptions and dosages published in the medical literature."
- Phil, Oakland, CA
The guitar riff in this song puts anything Jimmy Page ever did to shame! Led Zeppelin was an overated bunch of druggies. Sure, they made their millions so they have to get some credit, but they sounded like crap.
- Will, Easton, PA
"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" was released 7 months before "25 or 6 to 4" was even recorded. Chicago was never sued though, probably because Led Zeppelin was too busy fighting their own legal battle after not crediting Anne Bredon. Either way, I love both songs and Kath's solo in this song is probably my favorite guitar solo of all-time.
- Scott, Boston, MA
I just heard a song by Jonathan Coulton that is actually kind of a cover. He mixes "25 or 6 to 4" with The Beatles' "When I'm 64". It's a great mix - you should check it out.
- Erica, San Diego, CA
Maybe this wasn't about LSD, but Fancy Colours, on the other hand...
- Adam, West Palm Beach, FL
The song is simply the combination to a safe where all the money from this song is hidden.
- Robert Lamb, Chicago, Virgin Islands (U.S.)
At A Chicago concert a couple years ago one of the Chicago members, I can't remember which one said the 4 o'clock in the morning was the only time they could get in the recording studio, therefor the time 25 or 6 to 4.
- david collie, danville, NC
At A Chicago concert a couple years ago one of the Chicago members, I can't remember which one said the 4 o'clock in the morning was the only time they could get in the recording studio, therefor the time 25 or 6 to 4.
- david collie, danville, NC
Me and my best friend both love this song, especially the guitar solo in the middle and the horn section! and I don't think for a second that it's about using drugs I know it's because Robert Lamm who wrote it says it's not, but i don't think it really matters great rock is great rock no matter what it means!!!!
- Tony, Chicago, IL
From the official Chicago site: "In between tour dates in August 1969, Chicago had found the time to record its second album. One of the first songs Lamm brought in for the album was "25 Or 6 To 4,"

Zeppelin reccorded Zeepelin I w/ Babe..Leave you in 1968 and released it on January 69, so it would seem that Lamm (Chicago) had the opertunity to hear it first from their favorite record store. How would Page Hear it if Chicago didn't release it until 1970? Zeppelin did great rips, but I dont think this is one of them. They are both great, but lets keep the facts straight.
- paul, rochester, NY
And in what universe is 25r624 anything even remotely related to LSD?

Other than LSD-25 being the actual abbreviation for it, there's nothing in the process of making it, even a model number for a vacuum pump, I can think of that has anything to do with 25r624.
- Dave, Ocala, FL
The song was written in 1968, BEFORE Led Zeppelin's cover version of the Joan Baez song.

And Lamm talks candidly about the band's history with drugs so I have no reason to think he's lying about the song being about struggling to write a song and the clock saying it was 25 or (2)6 to 4 (3:34 or 3:35). Nothing about 3:54. And remember, there were no digital clocks then and the minute hand was often ambiguous in its readability. At 3:34 and a half the minute hand would be in between the two times. And s the band was very open about their drug use, it is reasonable to think he may have been on something at the time. And 25 or 26 parts water to 4 parts heroin is not "the proper mixture."

And Gary from Chicago, IL seems intent on arguing that Lamm himself is wrong on what the time thing means. First of all, yes, LSD-25 is the common LSD out there, but the word "or" in "25 OR 6 to 4" then should be the title. And why would Lamm say it was about the time and lie about WHAT time, Gary?

It's like he says. It's about trying to write just before dawn. And he was probably on LSD or meth or something, too. So what? The song is STILL quite obvioulsy about writing a song at 3:34 o 3:35.

Seems pretty simple to me.
- Dave, Ocala, FL
Does anyone notice that the riff to this sounds a lot like Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from Led Zeppelin?
- Longlivezep, Baltimore, MD
He is just intentionally setting up a double/triple/quadruple entendre. I feel it was definitely written intentionally to be suggestive of a drug experience, while maintaining a plausible deniability. Seems to have been a popular thing in that era.(Lucy in the sky with diamonds, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35) Seems like people get hung up with the odd notion that things are one thing or the other.
- Emile, lamerica, NY
Maybe LSD, maybe speed, meth but one thing is for sure: Chicago's driving, torqued up rhythm in this song absolutely replicates the feel of peaking then winding down whilst doing speed. No mistake. If you've done speed you know it. The words recount what every speed freak has felt-laying in bed wired up, wanting to sleep, unable to do so. The rhythm is spooky-absolutely conveys the build-up, jumping out of your skin like feeling that a good dose of speed will give you. Ahh, the good old days.
- Joe, Manila, Other
how could you be so foolish to think jimmy page ripped this riff from chicago when CLEARLY - you can even go look at the babe im gonna leave you songfact on this site - Led Zep 1 came out a year before.
- Jim, Toledo, OH
So you're saying that they were so spaced out on an all-nighter writing session they didn't know if it was 03:35 or 03:56? Why those two times in particular (25 to 4 or 6 to 4?)
- Cyberpope, Richmond, Canada
Let's see . . . the comments so far have mentioned this song being about LSD, quaaludes, thorazine, cocaine, heroin, vicodin, and speed. I just find it funny that everyone thinks this song is about their favorite drug or former favorite drug, it's so easy to make connections with something you've been so "intimate" with lol. It's just about trying to write a song late at night, pure and simple. This group takes their songwriting seriously, I don't think they'd deny it if it WAS about drugs.
- Erik, Bloomfield Hills, MI
the particular riff from babe im gonna leave you that you refer to is a zep original listen to joan baez version lol. good to see people calling out zeppelin ripoffs rather than vice versa.
- robert, AL
Also, the mark of a great songwriter is the ability to write lyrics that can be interpreted many different ways. And, as someone else said here, the music behind the lyrics is amazing. Put those two components together and you have a classic tune.
- Corbin, San Jose, CA
I always thought this song was a reference to time. The time being very early in the morning and the writer of the song not knowing exactly what time it is: either 25 or 6 to 4 AM. Now, whether or not the writer was on drugs or an all nighter is really left up to interpretation. But, I would say that it's definitely at the tail end of a night of partying.
- Corbin, San Jose, CA
I'd have to say the song is about being very very high , true he does quote "Searching for something to say" however, we could assume he's at a party around other people, or he's rambling to himself, as drug induced highs will lead people to do. He also quotes, "Should I do some more," as in take more drugs...

I can see why you would interpret it as "writing a song" and you can also understand why they may write something like that in a CD case... it's not odd that a rock group would take drugs, but still you might not want to just blatantly say it for publicity sake.

Also, in speaking to my father and his friends, who were in their twenties and thirties when this came out, they all took it as being about being high. 25 or 6 to 4 could definitely be a reference to 25r624 (LSD), or it could be a time... maybe it's a double meaning?
- Lemi, Tampa, FL
This song is definitely about doing coke. . . anybody that's ever done blow knows that there comes a point where you know you should just go to bed, but the drug keeps you wanting more til the break of day. . . "Wanting just to stay awake, Wondering how much I can take, Should I try to do some more. . . " Besides that, the brass section at the end of the song retires in the unfavorable way that one crashes after having done coke all night.
- Ellen, Louisville, KY
its about writers block from 4 - 6 am. not drugs. It says "searching for something to say.""should i try to do some more." just refers to writing songs not doing drugs.
- alex, new york, NY
I'll take the writer's word for it. Robert Lamm says it's about writing music early in the morning. He was 25 at the time, and it was six minutes to 4 a.m. I think he'd know.
- Jeff, Centennial, CO
Crap band; crap song; crap lyrics - 'nuff said.
- Michael, Toronto, Canada
The strongest piece of evidence-in my mind-that this song is NOT about drugs is that on the same album, there's a song called FANCY COLOURS, in which Robert Lamm readily admits IS about an LSD trip.
- Jim, Indio, CA
Okay, I don't know what the song is about. It could be drugs, it could be about writer's block. But I'm pretty sure it's not about the suicide of the band member that wrote Colour My World, because, if I'm not mistaken he's still very much alive.
- Donna, Birmingham, AL
Sorry, Phil, you lose. "624" is NOT the tablet code for Vicodin. Vicodin has a bisection line on one side and the embossed word "VICODIN" on the other. No numbers at all.

Codeine, as a generic chemical name, doesn't even HAVE a tablet code. It's possible that out of the dozens of tablets from different manufacturers that contain codeine, one of them MIGHT have the number "25" in it.

But it makes a lot more sense to assume that not every song is about drugs, and that "25 or (2)6 to 4" refers to a time.
- Bob, Oceanside, CA
OK enough of this. It is a drug song 25 is from codine and 624 is from vicoden. They're the tablet codes!
- Philip, Centralia, WA
I always thought that this song had to do with bus schedules due to the fact that their original name was "Chicago Transit Authority"
- Dave, Des Moines, IA
you guys... do you have to read drugs into everything you see, hear and think? lucy in the sky with diamonds is based on a photo john lennon's son drew. and 25 or 6 to for is not about drugs, smart a**es. oh my god, is it actually possible that there is a song which doesn't refer to drugs? no...

stevie
- stevie, dallas, TX
I listened to a show on the radio, and they interviewed the writer. He said he was having trouble writing a song, looked down at his watch to see what time it was "25 to 6...or 4, can't remember I was so sleepy".
- Darrell, Dallas, TX
How about everybody just stops talking about this song being about drugs? 'Cause it is not. So just shut up, everybody.
- Jimmy, Twinsburg, OH
I have bought the box set and your right on the nose. At least someone else isn't into all that conspiracy crap.
- patrick, londonderry, NH
I thought it was obvious this song was about cocaine..
-shine NY, NY
- Shine, NYC, NY
Hey Randy, I'm sure the guys from Chicago were major Chemistry buffs and made sure they got the exact formula for lysergic acid. I saw that little tidbit of information on the same website that you did, and frankly that's quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Wouldn't it be quite a shock if songs from the 70s ACTUALLY had nothing to do with drugs?? Perish the thought. Then, what would people talk about on these forums?
- Brandon, Peoria, IL
The guitar riff from this song is actually nearly identical to the Green Day song "Brain Stew"
- Kim, Sacramento, CA
LOL - this discussion seems to be bogged down in - do you believe in drugs or not.
Well, as the Beatles Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was obviously a reference to LSD (English currency at the time, Pounds, Shillings and Pence - £.s.d. - referred to in the common tongue as L.s.d. it could NOT have been about drugs.
It's also pretty common for people to sit cross-legged on the floor at 26 to 4 in the morning - or was it 25, and ponder if they should do some more - lyrics?

Peter B+, Munich,Germany
- Peter, Blackburn, England
Having read every post, I really think that it's mainly about writing a song. However, that's quite an interesting time of day the writer choosed. I think it is a drug reference; it wouldn't surprise me that he would deny it in interview. Who wants to admit it and then get raided by the "heat". So I'm saying that he was on drugs trying to right a song and wrote a song about it in a very clever way. It is also one hell of a song; don't try this at home kids.

The wah-wah solo is my favorite wah-wah ever. White Room by Cream gets honorable mention.
- Tom, Hartford, CT
Not a single comment got to the real meaning of this song.

"25 or 6 to 4" refers to the proper mixture of water to heroin in an injectable shot: 25 or 26 parts water to 4 parts heroin.

It isn't a date; isn't a time; isn't a formula for LSD. All that is as bogus as can be.

Leave it to an old fart like me to set the record straight!
- William, Las Cruces, NM
It is quite possible Green Day ripped this riff for more than just "Brain Stew." By the way, it's just "Brain Stew." "Jaded" is a seperate song that happens to come directly after "Brain Stew" and played in the same key. Anyhow, Green Day's song, "Hitchin' a Ride" also has the same arrangement as the one in the verse as "23 or 6 to 4" but played in a different tempo and progression. That being said, I strongly believe because so much music has been written that it is nearly impossible to write a riff that hasn't been already done. Be it not "Stolen" or "copied", but reproduced. Green Day, however, most likely stole the song considering the lyrics are about the same thing. "I'm having trouble trying to sleep. I'm counting sheep but running down. As time ticks by, still I try..."
- Nick, Louisville, KY
This is the most explicit and perfect song about LSD ever written.

No-one who has taken LSD several or more times could possibly not see this.

The meanings are NOT even particularly well-hidden - IF you ahve taken LSD several or more times.

GLARINGLY and UNMISTAKEABLY obvious.

IF... that is.

If not, then it is quite easy to discount that and decide a more likely explanation is more plausible.

Especially if the songwriter is asked to publicly explain lyrics about illegal drug useage, during a hyper-reactionary anti-drug era with no upside to being honest about it.

Besides, he knew that those who would understand already did, and those who didn't never would.

And in the big picture, it makes no difference either way.

:-)

"Waiting for the break of day"
LSD nearly always causes major insomnia - this is in fact a major feature that all LSD users prepared for on every trip.

"Searching for something to say"
LSD causes a flood of thoughts that go by too quickly to grab, and simultaneously makes communicating them verbally both impossible and pointless.

"Flashing lights against the sky"
I needn't explain that one much.

"Giving up I close my eyes"
The trip is lasting longer than expected - the eyes-open visual hallucinations are still continuing - "giving up" means that the eyes-closed hallucinations will do just as well, since eyes-open isn't going to be much different till the LSD wears off a little more.

"Sitting cross-legged on the floor"
Simply what he was doing. Finding a comfortable position is frequently a challenge. :0)

"25 or 6 to 4"

OK, here it comes folk, the definitive answer to what this phrase actually means.

I've never been in any doubt or confusion about this since the song came out.

The first time I heard it, I immediately "got it", and it is the only only explantion that makes perfect sense with every single word of the song.

However, only experienced LSD veterans will grasp this intuitively.

Everyone else can accept on faith, or deny by skepticism.

Makes NO difference either way though. :-)

"25" IS LSD, period. LSD was commonly called nmany things back then, and 25 was one of the more common slang terms.

"6 to 4" IS a reference to the EXACT time on the clock. It is 3:54 AM, period.

Time goes by UNBELIEVABLY slowly on LSD.

A 12 hour trip may seem, subjectively, like days and days, or centuries.

Someone beginning to come down from an acid trip is ACUTELY aware of the time, on a second to second basis, if they care to be.

So...

"25, or 6 to 4"

translates as

"LSD, or six minutes to four in the morning?"

This is a choice he is facing.

LSD - or the time.

The choice is between two realities in absolute conflict.

The reality of the LSD trip, to continue it, or, the reality of "reality", as exemplified by the clock and time, that is, he is now beginning to "come down", it is almost 4 AM, and if he does NOT take more LSD, he commits to re-entering normal reality, and the attendant consequences of the trip he's ALREADY taken.

OR, he can take MORE LSD, and postpone the inevitable a bit longer, by extending the trip.

The person is faced with the knowledge that he must either face some consequences NOW (by choosing "6 to 4", the real-world time), or face in all likelihood WORSE consequences LATER, by taking more LSD NOW ("25").

25 or 6 to 4.

Good grief, this is not just obvious (if one has taken LSD multiple times) it is way way way beyond obvious.

"Staring blindly into space"
A very cliched and common state of being as an acid trip is ending. Again, past users just recognize this instantly.

"Getting up to splash my face"
Again...

"Wanting just to stay awake"
Again... all of this, while resembling any number of possible mundane events like insomnia, are such absolutely and eloquently PERFECT descriptors of the LSD 'down-side', that... never mind...

"Wondering how much I can take"
An LSD double-entendre!!!
1. "How much I can take" - as in human endurance - LSD really wrings you out!
2. "How much I can take" - as in total doseage of additional LSD, should he decide against "6 to 4"

"Should I try to do some more"
In context, the very NEXT WORD after "more", is 25.

Last verse.

"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"

The very fact that the clock does not advance to "5 to 4" during the duration of the entire song is evidence that this is indeed LSD we're talking about.

Time frames are vastly expanded, and it is absolutely within context logical that this entire sequence of thoughts would occur within the span of less than one minute.

The song ends with the quandry being repeated twice, leaving the listener unknowing of what choice was made.

The notion that this is about insomnia while writing a song is so grossly funny and surrealisticly Orwellian, it boggles the mind.

And, the idea of a work shift from 6 to 4 is in the right direction, it really misses entirely the delicious nature of the very quandry the writer id referring to.

Again, in the real world, understanding the lyrics of one drug song from a bygone era is of no import at all.

However, I just wanted to get the record staright once and for all on the web, and then forget about it.

;-)
- Gary, Chicago, IL
Then again, Led Zeppelin originally took this from someone else, but they were credited.
- KingBabi, Arlington, MA
Actually, Chicago stole their riff from Led Zeppelin. The song "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" was released on their first album, Led Zeppelin in 1969, this was released one year later.
- KingBabi, Arlington, MA
Chicago remade this song in 1986 for the album Chicago 18. The music video for the remake is about a dystopian society.
- Chris, Charleston, SC
I had the pleasure of Mr. Lamm on my program couple months back. This drug thing is WAY off base. It indeed was about the time of the morning, I think he would know lol.

Crow
- Gary, Seattle, WA
And just to weigh on the drug thing, "25 or 6 to 4" actually refers to the time. It is 25 till four in the morning. Or maybe 26. Get it? 25 or 26 till four? Hence the opening line of the song: "Waiting for the break of day"... See? This was written before the days of digital clocks. You looked at the clock and you couldn't always be absolutely sure where the minute hand was pointing. Maybe it was 3:35, maybe it was 3:36.... But meanwhile, the reason this poor lout is up so late and unable to go to sleep is because he has been ingesting chemicals. "Should I try to do some more?"... Back in the late 1960s, that was considered a fun way to pass a pleasant evening with friends. The world was more innocent then. Nobody worried much about things like long-term liver damage.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
Mo of Newark--one reason Chicago was never sued by Led Zepplin was that Chicago had a hit record with "25 or 6 to 4" years before Zepp had the braniac idea of ripping off the guitar part. You can imagine a red-eyed Jimmy Page hitting on the guitar riff in the studio and the rest of the band saying, "Wow, that's really cool. I almost feel like I've heard it somewhere before."... But you must know that this wasn't the only piece of music that Zepp ripped off.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
I've ALWAYS noticed that the beginning of 25 or 6 to 4" sounded very similar to that guitar rift to "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". I use to wonder how Chicago was never sued by Zeppelin. Both rifts descend but in "25 or 6 to 4" there are 5 beats in it. There are 6 beats in "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and thats the difference.....1 note.
- Mo, Newark, NJ
I always thought this song was about drugs. I always assumed it was about someone coming off LSD and wondering if he should do some more. Because it's almost 4 in the morning and it's wearing off ... he's too wired to sleep but he's too tired to try and DO something. So should he do some more ... at 25 or 6 to four in the morning. Who would write a song about how hard it is to WRITE a song and use those phrases? No, not everything is about drugs but this just screams LSD! :)
- Zoey, Athens , AL
Yea its traditional, and their version is based on one Jimmy saw Joan Baez perform.
- Marlon, Brooklyn, NY
Yeah, it does sound like Babe I'm Gonna leave you, but Zeppelin did not write that song.
- Kyle, huntington, NY
Im not saying its a "bad song" because the riff sounds like Zeppelins.

And as a matter of fact I play Guitar, Drums, and Bass :)
- Marlon, Brooklyn, NY
Actually Ben the guitar rifs sound very much alike. Don't bring the fact that Marlon and Jinjiro might or might not play musical instruments. It makes you seem snide. I'm saying this because I played piano for awhile, but I haven't played in two years. Anyway, I have heard both songs and the guitar rifs sound very much alike.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
hmmm wow jinjiro and marlon, this doesn't sound liike babe im gonna leave you at all if you played an instrument. and for Johnny, WOW ur way off. The memeber that committed suicide ur talking about is the guitar player, terry kath. So your story is impossible because he's the one on the guitar playing the rhythm and badass lead parts on the song. Plus, it wasn't suicide, it was an "accidental" suicide to be more exact. While he was loaded at a groupie's party, he accidentally shot himself in his head thinking the gun wasn't loaded, this was to prove to his friends that it wasn't. How ironic... RIP to a VERY badass guitar player...
- Ben, Chinatown
25 or 6 to 4 refers to LSD-25 and the length of time your trip would last. If you dropped the LSD at 6pm, you'd be whacked until 4am - a ten-hour trip - hence, 6 to 4.

An old hippie stoner, and Chicago super-freak, explained this to me...
- Greg, Charleston, SC
Oh yes... I almost forgot to mention. The flashing lights against the sky refer to the lights on top of the police cruiser that showed up. :)
- Johnny, Forestville, NY
The song 25 or 6 to 4 was written about one of the band members who had commited suicide. The writer of "Colour my world" as well as others. The story goes, that when the police arrived at the scene. Witnesses were asked for the approximate time of the incident. The response was, "Around 25, or 26 to 4 in the morning." The rest of the lyrics basically refer to how one handles such a situation.
That's my story... and I'm sticking to it. :)
- Johnny, Forestville, NY
Wish I could edit these comments.

My high school band this song last year :)

I was the only one in the 'audience' who recognized it probebly O_o.
- Stephen, Altamont, IL
'This is How a Heart Breaks', by either Rob Thomas or Robbie Williams reminds me a lot of this song. 25 or 6 to 4 is one of my favourite songs :)
- Stephen, Altamont, IL
Marlon is right, it does sound a lot like Zeppelin's song, 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You'. Nice catch. The part that sounds like it is in the beginning, and also after the part where Plant sings "I can hear it calling me back home", and then there's a short guitar part, and then it comes on hard with a riff that sounds a lot like "25 Or 6 To 4".
- Jinjiro, Rochester, NY
The Green Day song in question is called Brain Stew (sorry if this was said already, I skimmed through to check but I may have missed it). The song is nothing like this one, but the opening licks are the same. Well, a bit more simplistic, but the same progression anyway. The song is on the album Insomniac, but I do not beleive Insomniac exists as a song. The first time I heard 25 or 6 to 4 (curse my youth, it was after brain stew) I knew Green Day had stolen from it...I hope they got sued! As for the song being about acid...I think that it's easy to apply a drug-related meaning to anything. ANY meaning to anything, really. It doesn't seem to me like this has to be about drugs at all. I always saw the "dancing lights" as what you get after looking at a light and then against something dark. I imagine a tired guy sitting in a room with the light on, and looking out into the night and seeing the dancing aftersight. Anyway, excellent song.
- John, Millersville, MD
Too many beers?Come on,this was 1970 of course the song is about some drug trip but who cares?If you disect every song you are bound to find something,either real or manufactured in your head,that's why music is wonderful it can be whatever to anybody.It's funny that the most comments are made to any song that people don'nt understand.Just relax and enjoy the song and the awesome guitar work and horn section that once made this band great.
- Andrew, Toronto
Yes, this song is about LSD. Chris from Hull, MA had half of it right. 25 refers to LSD-25. "25" is a slang term for LSD. However, "6 to 4" refers to the shift the singer would have to work if he decided to go in to work later that day. The song is about the singers dilemma: should he get some sleep and fill his shift at work, or should he drop some more acid and blow work off completely.

It's really, really, really obvious if you read the lyrics and talk to some old hippies. Chicago (in the 70's anyway), surprisingly, had a dark edge to them, which is made more clear through this song.
- Alexis, Tucson, AZ
How about Everybody Forget that this Song is About Drugs... Cause it's, not.....
- Paul Serrato, Arlington, TX
Well, of course any representative from Chicago is not going to explicitly say that the song was about drugs! This is particularly likely if the statement has been given in the last 10 years or so since this band'which once was so damn creative, progressive and remarkable in concert'has become whittled down to a few original members, a weak silhouette of its past, and a live show that caters to cheesy white-bread suburbanites instead of hip, young, musically articulate audiences.

It's worth noting that this band was no stranger to drug experimentation...or for that matter, abuse. In fact, it was a coke-fueled late night party where the phenomenal guitar Terry Kath accidentally took his own life in the classic "See, it's not loaded!" mistake.

My thoughts about this song: If you've taken LSD, you can see the possibility of the song being about the drug. If you've never dropped acid, then I'm sorry...you're in no position to argue about whether or not the song is a drug reference since you have no personal experience with which to relate in this context.
- anon, Sacramento, CA
I have always herd that it was refering to an lsd trip (lsd25) and if he was deciding to take thorzine(some thorzine pills had 624 on them) to help end the trip, or to drop some more acid.
- Dylan, West Grove, PA
The people who think this song is about drugs wants it to be about drugs. Pathethic.
- harvey, saskatoon, Canada
624 isn't a reference to quaaludes, that was 714, and quaaludes weren't all that prevalent in 1969. Robert Lamm has explained numerous times that the song was about him trying to write a song and coming up blank. He looked at the clock and it was 25 or 26 minutes until 4 in the AM.
He's sitting cross-legged on the floor because he's writing and he's splashing his face because he's sleepy.
- Guy, Altamonte Springs, FL
The riff sounds alot like Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"
- Marlon, NYC, NY
It's about drugs! C'mon, "dancing lights against the sky...wondering how much I can take...should I try and do some more...spinning room is sinking deep...." The title can be rephrased as follows: "[Should I do LSD]25 or [go to work from] 6 to 4"
- AJ, Hammy, CA
Isn't it a bit of a coincidence that the time of the morning that they were writing this song just happens to correlate to well known slang names for the two prevalent drugs of the day? They could have named it 26 or 7 to 4, completely eliminating any reference to LSD and ludes. I think this song has a double meaning, which many songs did from the 60s and 70s. Someone mentioned "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". How about "Hotel California" by the Eagles? or "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane? Either way, in my opinion, the best music was made in the 60s and 70s even if the song topics are not about drugs, most of the creativity was fueled by them.
- Kat, Sunnyvale, CA
The drug refernces seem off base to me. LSD is called "LSD 25" NOT becuase it was the 25th distilation or 25th attempt to make it, but beaceuse the chemical name includes "-N(C2H5)2", which is shortened to "25" in chemistry short hand. The "chemical name" for LSD is NOT "25r624" as some posters would have. The full "chemical name" from the Merck Index is 9,10-Didehydro-N,N-diethyl-6-methylergoline-8ß-carboxamide or D-lysergic acid diethylamide; LSD; LSD-25; lysergsaure diethylamid. Merck gives the chemical formula as "C20H25N3O as above. Sorry to ruin the fun, but not every song is about drugs.
Plus, where would these guys in the band have learned all this chemistry in the pre-web days?
- Adam, NYC, NY
Greenday did a more of a punk cover for the beat to this song for their song "insomniac" which is about a boy so high on cocaine that he cannot go to sleep and goes crazy
- Sloan, Port Washington, NY
I have come to believe that this song is both about writing a song, and a drug trip. To the reference above about the 624 being a reference to "qualudes", which were "hypnotic sedatives" used in the 60s and 70s, mostly for recreation (manufacturing of them was soon ceased from their constant abuse), and the 25 to LSD-25, the second most popular form of LSD at the time (D(LSD-25) being the most popular at the time, also known as simply "Delysid" or "Delysid(LSD-25)"). Throughout time artists and musicians have always looked towards "outside" sources for inspiration, including drugs. The "25 or 6 to 4", could be a cross meaning to "25 or 624", as in to take LSD-25, or Qualudes, as inspiration. If this being the case then the "3:35 or 3:34" could also be another meaning to the song. In a musical sense the song in terms of "mood" swings constantly and "kaleidescopically", perhaps mimicing a drug induced trip. This is solely a theory, and I am by no means proclaiming this as the "true" meaning, but I am simply just adding my input and throwing another point of view into the ballpark. Never the less, Chicago is an extremely talented and underrated band, and this song is truly amazing, and skillfully created, no matter the meaning.
- Dan, Morristown, NJ
624 refers to quaaludes which is a very strong sedetive which used to be readily available in this country at the time of this song and was taken to get high. On the back of quaaludes there are the numbers 624.

I have no idea what 25 refers to but it could be in reference to LSD. Quaaludes are a drug that can be taken to ease the coming down of tripping and allow you to fall asleep.

The lyrics of the song make perfect sense if you think of it this way.
- Jason, New Haven, CT
A lot of things sound like a lot of things, but the band's always said the song was about struggling through the night to write a song. As a songwriter myself, I can see the comparison to that as strongly as the former trippers can see the comparison to LSD. Not sure there's enough evidence to suggest that the band's been lying about its meaning.
- NickC, Ft. Wayne, IN
Isn't it at all possible that the song is a comparison? I was at a point suffering from insomnia and I am aware that it is very similar to being tripped out on LSD. Maybe the song is a comparison of not being able to sleep and being wired on LSD. Chances are they were high when writing this song, there's no way they were lacking creativity.
- Andrew, Toronto, Canada
Not knowing what these guys were doing when these lyrics where being created (and nobody except for them probably knows), I would assume if it was LSD (which I can clearly see it to be). I think they were tripping big time, that's why they needed the 'splashing water on my (their) face'. If you have ever taken LSD, there's a gross film of sweat that forms on your face, and water not only helps to get that film off, but also wakes you up by not having that feeling of dirtiness. And you may find yourself needing to sit down and try to get you bearings straight as well... especially if you're not having a good experience. Crossed legged is a kind of a mystical way to sit down. Everyone knows that the 60's were heavily influenced by mysticism, with guru's, etc... In some religions, to sit crossed legged, in some shape or form, is how one gets centered, that's probably the case with these guys in the song, but I may be wrong, again, nobody knows except for them... BUT, I think the lyrics do show a drug influence.

Maybe a happy medium is where the title's meaning lies. And just maybe the song title has a play on words, representing both possibilities; with a hidden message of 25R624 (the chemical designation for LSD25), which sounds factual (I'm really not going to search to see if that's true or not, but it sounds good to me)... at the same time, representing the time; since the only grammatical way to make sense of the title, would be the physical time; 3:35 AM (25 to 4) or 3:34 AM (26 to 4), because the title does have OR, not R, and the word TO, not the number 2. In the 60's and the early 70's, many songs had lyrics that had dual meanings (e.g. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), whether or not the writers meant it specifically, or if they did it without thinking thoroughly the purpose of the dual meanings. BUT, it is quite obvious that the Beetles meant LSD with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. And just maybe, Chicago thought of their title of having dual meanings as well.

The specific time 3:30ish may have been when they wrote or experienced the lyrics, and the coincidental lyrics regarding acid could be a hidden message to someone who has used acid, and maybe that's the way they wanted, a kind of parablesecret that only dope heads would know, and so they decided to write the title to have the dual meaning. After all, those were the days when lyrics, song titles, album cover art meant more than they do today. And I also want to add, those were the days when lyrics could be anything, and freewill was given to the listeners to decide what it means. Take for instance 'Looking out my backdoor' by CCR.
- Ray, Redondo Bch, CA
Well, Damn,

Why does everyone have to tie everything to drugs? We all try to find hiden meanings to songs and most times they are all wrong! I have sat and written things and my friends have commented on the meanings of what I have wrote and they are wrong... not even close.Just sit back, listen, enjoy, and don't try to "tag" things. It will only make you crazy when you find yourself wrong.

Jack
- jack, fayette, AR
25 or 6 to 4 sounds ALOT like 25r624. This song is about using LSD.
- David, Louisville, KY
Hmmmm - finally I know what it's about. I'll go with drugs. C'mon fellas, it was late sixties, there were SO many songs about 'em. and Green Daymay have copied that riff -- but Chicago themselves copied it from the Beatles "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
- Tony, San Francisco, CA
This is a song written about writting a song in the middle of the night to beat a deadline. IT IS NOT ABOUT DRUGS. Some one ask what time it was and the answer was it's 25 or 6 to 4!! When Chicago and Jimi Hendrix were touring together in their early years, Hendrix said kath was a better guitar player then he. Kath was very underrated
- Dave, Pomeroy, OH
Great song,Terry kath was one of the greatest guitarists of his day,but never got the reconition he deserved.I still get chills down my back everytime I hear that song.Great guitar work with jammin wha wha pedal.
- rick, jackson, NJ
Are you experienced?? The chemical designation for LSD25 is 25R624. Actually try reading Dr. Hoffman's book. From someone that is experienced, this song is OBVIOUSLY about tripping. Of course, tripping a bunch may have skewed my perspective.
- Randy, Augusta, GA
Tim from TN-I absolutely agree with you on that note. This song was not written about drugs. It simply is about staying up late and trying to think clearly, which is difficult to do at that time of night...well morning. Great song but I prefer Robert's voice...not Pete's.
- Courtney, Gloucester, VA
Actually, sorry for the mixup. Chicago was not involved in a lawsuit with Blood, Sweat and Tears. Although, both groups had the same producer. However, the actual lawsuit was with the group, Green Day, which copied the riff of "25 or 6 to 4" for one of their songs. I don't know which song. But, I don't know if there was a lawsuit.
- Brandon, Seattle, WA
The lyrics 25 or 6 to 4 has no hidden meaning. In production of the song they had not found anything suitable to plug into that part of the song. At one point in a long recording session the time was asked and given...25 or 6 to 4. This was plugged in with intent to be replaced but never was. There is no secret drug formula regarding that lyric, the rest of lyrics are fair game though
- Schuyler, Clearfield, PA
Was Chicago pressed charges for imitating Blood, Sweat and Tears with this song? Or was it another song?
- Brandon, Seattle, WA
Drugs?? Wow, that's quite a stretch. It's pretty obvious it's about staying up late and trying to accomplish something creative, even though it's a lost cause at that hour. Take it from an insomniac, the description is pretty accurate. Especially the part in the second verse:

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
- Tim, Hendersonville, TN
the drug story makes alot of sense, especially when you're listening while speeding....the tempo is a rush! (them damn college days)
- Edward, Miami, FL
It is definitely about one hell of an acid trip. But whose? The song's meaning is clearly metioned in its title; the numbers represent one of the chemical compositions of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, also referred to as LSD-25 since it was the 25th formulation - or the 25th derivative of lysergic acid that inventor Dr. Albert Hoffman had worked with. In 1943, after experimenting with the chemical compound, Hoffman entered a lab report in his notebook. On 4/16 Dr. Hoffman had to leave work in the lab and go home because he felt strangely restless and dizzy. He got home, lay down and sank into a not unpleasant delirium which was characterized by an extreme degree of fantasy (a kind of trance). He kept his eyes closed because he found the daylight very unpleasant. Fantastic visions of extraordinary vividness accompanied by a kaleidoscopic-like play of intense coloration continuously swirled around his head. The condition lasted for about two hours. What relevance the 06 24 comes in I don't know. Perhaps the wrong date was used in the song, either inadvertently, or intentionally - to make the song flow better lyrically.
- Chris, Hull, MA
Great song no matter what it is about and there happens to be a great guitar lead by Terry Kath right in the middle!
- Mike, Fremont , CA
Why does everyone think that songs deal with drugs?
- Jen, PdC, WI
Is this song REALLY about drugs!?
- Stykman, Little River, SC
So, Jennifer from Dothan: What does "sitting crosslegged" and "splashing ones face with water" have to do with drugs? You really lost me on that one. "spinning room" could very well be one too many beers, don't ya think? "Major drug trip"? An obvious exaggeration.
- David, Lubbock, TX
This song is definately talking about drugs. He makes the comment
"Sitting crosslegged on the floor" and "splashing my face, just to stay awake."
Also "Spinning room is sinking deep." I love Chicago but you can tell this is one major drug trip.
- Jennifer, Dothan, AL
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