25 or 6 to 4?

Dan and I were talking about a stupid joke he thought he had made (he thought he had made a good joke, but I assured him it was stupid; the joke was that a waitress had told him his food would be ready in “ten, fifteen minutes” and Dan said to himself, and then to me, “Two-and-a-half hours!” the joke being “ten TIMES fifteen minutes” would be 2.5 hours). Hoo boy.

Oh, actually, I was giving him my phone number so (Interplanetary) Janet could send me a picture of Dan in his umbrella hat being happy with his veggie burrito. OK. So when I got to the “324” part, Dan repeated “824” to Janet, and I had to sing it to him, using the melody of that famous, inscrutable Chicago song “25 or 6 to 4.”

It was then I realized that I have never chanced to look up what this song means. Do you know?

Come, know with me.

According to The Straight Dope this song was

written by organist/vocalist Robert Lamm. The title and lyrics have puzzled many since it appeared in 1970. Some say it’s a drug reference, suggesting a unit of measurement involving the quantity of joints that can be rolled from a what-used-to-be dime bag. Some feel it’s about looking for spiritual revelation, undergoing a mysterious soul-searching journey.

Lamm says it’s simpler than that. “The song is about writing a song. It’s not mystical,” he says. Take a look at some of the lyrics:

As for the curious title, Lamm says, “It’s just a reference to the time of day”—as in “waiting for the break of day” at 25 or (twenty-)6 minutes to 4 a.m. (3:35 or 3:34 a.m.)

OK. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed, but I do think that the song got some good mileage out of its indescipherable lyrics. Don’t you?

So, maybe in our comments we can think of a better interpretation?

PatrickExplanations08/24/06 2 comments


Dad • 08/24/06 1:41 PM:

I have always thought the title referred to the time of day. The song was never one of my favorites, and I don’t remember having any curiosity about the lyrics. Thus, I’m not disappointed with Lamm’s explanation.

However, now that you turn it into a contest, I think it could be construed as some sort of alien attack on the earth. What to say? He’s in awe, the lights are blinding. How much can he take? Should he try to do something? Ahhhh!

Patrick • 08/24/06 10:38 PM:

Me, I thought it was something cryptic, offering a choice: on one side “25” on the other “6-2-4.”

Granted, a lot of songs have inane lyrics (shamalama ding dong), but I like how this one gets a lot out of nothing. I DO like the song musically, too.

I was talking more about a plot for the “25 or 6 to 4” part of the lyrics, like some mad scientist whose invented a secret weapon of mass desctruction code-named “6.2.4” threatening what he’ll unleash if his demands for 25 billion dollars is not met.

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