The song “25 or 6 to 4” was written by Robert Lamm, one of the founding members of the rock/jazz fusion band Chicago. She recorded in 1969 for a second album named after the band’s name. The song spent 20 weeks at number four on the US charts in 1970, showing what a huge success it was. However, due to the odd wording of the title, people wondered what the song might be about until Lamm revealed what it was about in 2013. In the article we will consider all possible interpretations, and in the end we will find out which of them turned out to be true.
The most popular option. It was believed to be true for so long that the song was even banned in Singapore due to “alleged drug innuendos”. People thought that the name “25 or 6 to 4” was a code for LSD, and it indicated the time it takes for the drug to wear off (approximately 6 pm to 4 am).
In this context, the text can very easily be interpreted as the moment when a person comes off the effects of LSD. The line “I get up to wash” speaks of the moment when the person is almost completely let go, and he understands that he needs to take a shower. He gets up, “staring blindly at one point,” because if he does not focus on something specific, then he may throw up. “I wonder how much I can take” may indicate that the hero has taken a larger dose than before. Perhaps he expected to die from an overdose, but he did not succeed. He is “looking for something to say” to some person who does not want the hero to use drugs.
According to this version, the lyrical hero suffers from a mental disorder, and destructive thoughts cover him at night. When there are about “25 or 26 minutes until 4 am” they finally leave and the hero can get up and do something.
In this case, the line “I wonder how much I can stand” shows the desperate cry of the lyrical hero, because he does not understand how he is still able to fight his disease. The hero asks, “Should I do something else?” – perhaps trying to remember what things await him in the coming day. Often, depression causes people to forget basic needs like food, showers, and so on. Sometimes this can be accompanied by insomnia, and then the line “I feel like I need to sleep” just vividly demonstrates how a person seems to want to sleep, but cannot.
What is the song really about?
It often happens that the truth turns out to be much simpler and more pleasant than what a person managed to imagine. In 2013, Robert Lamm revealed that he wrote the song at night. It is self-reflective, as it describes the creative throes of the singer himself, who was about “25 or 26 minutes before 4” (i.e. 3:34 or 3:35) finished writing the song.
From this point of view, all the lines take on a single meaning and add up to a story about how the creator creates his work.
“Looking for something to say” means that even though the work is finished, the creator, not yet completely moving away from it, is looking for things that could still be added before the flow of inspiration ends.
“I give up and close my eyes” is the point at which the lyrical hero realizes that there is nothing more to add, because he has already said everything he wanted to say, and adding unnecessary meanings will lead to a worsening of the work.
“Blindly staring at one point” shows that the singer was sitting over the song without interruption for a minute, because of which his vision deteriorated a little.
“I’m getting up to wash / I just don’t want to fall asleep” speaks of how the lyrical hero still lives on the song he finished, and now does not want to part with it.
“I wonder how much I can take.” Often, when the creator is so keen on creating his work, he stops noticing the passage of time. And now, finally coming out of this state, he is amazed at how strong his body is.
“Is there anything else I should do” brings us back to “looking for something to say”. The lyrical hero continues to think about how to improve his song.
And so, at the end, the hero still feels a strong desire to sleep, but the repetition of the first line “waiting for dawn” shows his intention to continue to sit over the work until it is brought to the ideal.
So we revealed the true meaning of the song, which for a long time was shrouded in a veil of secrecy.