One of - and this is debatable, but it's what I think - the best rock songs ever is by a band called Chicago. But the name has always confused me. The song is called "25 Or 6 To 4". What does this mean? It's said repeatedly in the lyrics, but they give no hint as to what it actually means.

  • I have always liked the Cricket explanation, 25 runs, on 6 hits and 4 Overs, but the time explanation makes more sense.
    – user2517
    Jun 23, 2016 at 16:49

6 Answers 6


"Speculation that the song's lyrics are drug related has been largely dismissed. Lamm himself says that the title is "just a reference to the time of day" and that "the song is about writing a song. It's not mystical." The time of day in reference is 3:35 AM (or 3:34 AM), which would then be 25 (or 26) minutes to 4 AM."

From the Wikipedia entry

  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Sep 11, 2017 at 15:25

25 Or 6 To 4

should be interpreted as:

Twenty five or [twenty] six [minutes until] four [o'clock, AM]

  • Do you actually say "X minutes until Y o'clock" in American English? That sounds really weird to me.
    – TRiG
    Jul 27, 2015 at 9:53
  • No, but we might say "it's about ten 'til four", (3:50) and some people seem to rush over "'til" and pronounce it as "to". It seems to be more prevalent (in my opinion) with older generations. Jul 27, 2015 at 10:00
  • 2
    Well to is normal in my dialect. (Incidentally, till is not an abbreviation of until: it's its own word, and needs no apostrophe.)
    – TRiG
    Jul 27, 2015 at 10:02
  • This is definitely a conversation for english.stackexchange.com, but I found this very interesting: worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-unt1.htm Jul 27, 2015 at 10:05
  • 1
    A year late, but... 'til and till are two different words. And 'til is definitely an abbreviation of until. Dec 20, 2016 at 18:31

I have always understood that the song was about the act of songwriting itself. Robert Lamm was describing the process of staying up all night and suffering sleep deprivation and confusion while trying to find the inspiration to compose a new song on a deadline.


At that time LSD 25 was prevalent and one of the prescription drugs people were doing was methequalone in 400 mg.(version of qualudes). On the side of the pills was the number 624. I doubt very much he was sitting cross legged on the floor trying to write a song on his lap to meet some deadline. It is the position (usually while rocking back and forth) that many people who where tripping late at night would be in. 624 would bring him down to sleep and 25 would continue the trip which he was obviously enjoying. "Spinning room is sinking deep" is hardly an issue when staying up late writing. Writing a song late at night is a good clean story for the masses but more likely at some "hippie house" at that time I would think the drug induced answer would be far more likely and a more memorable experience worth writing a song about. Do you really think I was writing a song at 4 am., gee what a great thing to write a song about? Good luck and believe what you want. Maybe 25 or 6 to 4 is a time for the sake of catchy song but it sounds like a trip either way and going to work is the last thing on someones mind. Been there done that!

  • 2
    Hi. Welcome. Do you have some references to what you are saying?
    – Bebs
    Dec 17, 2016 at 20:43

Here's your answer.
Most of you are all wrong but the "timing" was right.

Chicago reveals the meaning of '25 or 6 to 4'

Chicago singer/keyboardist Robert Lamm tells how he wrote his mega-hit, "25 or 6 to 4." Source: CNN

"When I wrote '25 or 6 to 4', I was sitting in a room up above where. . .uhh. . . Whiskey a Go Go is on Sunset Strip. I just kind of found that riff, I mean, waiting for the break of day searching for something to say. When I had nothing to say, I made. . .(chuckles). . .I made this song about writing this song. '25 or 6 to 4' indicates the time in the morning, 25 minutes to 4 am. So I was seeing all that, just really describing the whole setting. I usually mean exactly what I say, except when I don't." - Robert Lamm.

  • 2
    Hi. Thanks for your answer. Please explain what your link says, add some details... in case the link dies, an answer like this will worth nothing.
    – Bebs
    May 30, 2017 at 5:29

This song is about a decision. The subject of the song has been up tripping on LSD (25) all night, but is now faced with this decision, as he is coming down, as to whether or not to attempt to leave the flat to go be responsible (6 to 4 - a typical time period one is away from home during a work or school day). Just about anyone who has tripped on psychedelics on a work night has faced this dilemma and instantly recognizes this scenario. Do I party on fearlessly, or do I go out and face the world?

Even if the stated songwriting meaning was meant, the double entendre is undoubtedly intended. Come on, this was 1970, people!

  • 2
    "6 to 4" doesn't seem a typical time period to be out for work, altough possibly for school. Either way : 9 to 5, 8 to 6 would be more recognisable. I'm more inclined to the obvious explanation of it being some in-between time in the early hours of the morning, 25 or 26 minutes to four o'clock.
    – Angst
    Mar 26, 2016 at 17:03
  • Citation on this? Mar 30, 2016 at 14:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.