25 or 6 to 4

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"25 or 6 to 4"
25 or 6 to 4.jpg
Single by Chicago
from the album Chicago
B-side "Where Do We Go from Here"
Released June 1970
Format 7"
Recorded August 1969
Genre Hard rock, jazz rock
Length 4:50 (Album version)
2:53 (Single version)
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Robert Lamm
Producer(s) James William Guercio
Chicago singles chronology
"Make Me Smile/Colour My World"
"25 or 6 to 4"
"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"
"Make Me Smile/Colour My World"
"25 or 6 to 4"
"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

"Along Comes a Woman"
(1985) Along Comes a Woman1985

"25 or 6 to 4/One More Day"
(1986) String Module Error: Match not found1986

"Will You Still Love Me?"
(1986) Will You Still Love Me?1986
Audio sample

"25 or 6 to 4" is a song written by the American musician Robert Lamm, one of the founding members of the rock/jazz fusion band Chicago. It was recorded in 1969 for their second album, Chicago, with Peter Cetera on lead vocals.[1] The album was released in January 1970 and the song was edited and released as a single in June of that same year, climbing to number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart[2][3] and number seven on the UK Singles Chart.[4] It was the band's first song to reach the top five in the U.S.[2] This recording features an electric guitar solo using a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, and a lead vocal line in Aeolian mode.[5] It has been included in numerous Chicago compilation albums.

An updated version of "25 or 6 to 4" was recorded for the 1986 album Chicago 18 with James Pankow listed as co-writer.[6] With the new band member Jason Scheff on lead vocals, the single reached number 48 on the U.S. chart.[7] This version was also used as the B-side for the band's next single in 1986, "Will You Still Love Me?".[8]


The song is about trying to write a song in the middle of the night. The song's title is the time at which the song is set: 25 or 26 minutes before 4 AM.[9][10] Because of the unique phrasing of the song's title, "25 or 6 to 4" has been incorrectly speculated to be a veiled reference to drug quantities, or a mystical allusion.[11] The 1986 music video for the song references the correct meaning at its beginning. The song was banned in Singapore in 1970 and again in 1986 because of its "alleged allusions to drugs."[12] 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.[13]

In what may be a coincidence, the song's writer, Robert Lamm, had recently written and sung another Chicago hit, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?", for which this song's title can be seen to serve as an answer.[11]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the 1986 remake won an American Video Award, in the category "Best Cinematography," for Bobby Byrnes.[14]

Chart performance[edit]

Covers and parodies[edit]

The song has been covered by various artists, including Leonid & Friends,[21] Straitjacket, Local H, Intruder, Bruce Foxton, The Moog Cookbook, Earth, Wind & Fire, Paul Gilbert, Pacifika, Vince Neil, Umphrey's McGee, and Nick Ingman. Constantine Maroulis released his version of the song as a single in 2011.[22]

For the results night performance of the finale of the ninth season of American Idol, Lee DeWyze performed "25 or 6 to 4" with Chicago.

In 2005, Jonathan Coulton made "When I'm 25 or 64", a mashup of "25 or 6 to 4" with "When I'm Sixty-Four" by The Beatles.[23]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

The song appears as an on-disc track in the video game Rock Band 3 and has been made available as a download for the game/learning software Rocksmith 2014.



  1. ^ Chicago Group Portrait (Box Set) (album liner notes archived online) (Media notes). New York City, NY: Columbia Records. 1991. Retrieved February 14, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Chicago - Chart history Hot 100 | Billboard". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  3. ^ "Chicago Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  4. ^ a b "CHICAGO | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  5. ^ Stephenson, Ken (2002). What to Listen For in Rock: A Stylistic Analysis. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-300-09239-4. Retrieved February 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Singles". Billboard. 98 (41). October 11, 1986. p. 80 (Scroll to page, see No. 48 on Hot 100 Singles chart.). Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  7. ^ Trust, Gary (2009-11-13). "Ask Billboard: Why We Follow The Charts - Second Helping of Seconds". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  8. ^ Popoff, Martin (2010). Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991. Krause Publications. p. 240. ISBN 1-4402-1621-5. 
  9. ^ Lamm, Robert (2009-06-15). "Chicago Comes to Agganis". BU Today (Interview). Interview with Devon Maloney. Boston University. Retrieved 2017-02-13. It's a reference to time. It's a song about writing the song, and I looked at my watch while I was writing and it was 25 minutes to four in the morning, or maybe 26. 
  10. ^ History of Chicago (television documentary). CNN. Retrieved December 30, 2016. '25 or 6 to 4' indicates the time in the morning, 25 minutes to 4 a.m. 
  11. ^ a b "What does the Chicago lyric "25 or 6 to 4" mean?". The Straight Dope. October 18, 2000. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
  12. ^ Leo, Christie (1986-12-27). "Singapore Bans Fogerty LP". Billboard. 98 (52). p. 87. Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  13. ^ "Singapore Censors Relax Ban on Some Beatles Hits". DeseretNews.com. 1993-05-27. Retrieved 2017-02-14. 
  14. ^ "'Sledgehammer' wins". Fort Lauderdale News. Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. February 28, 1987. p. 2A. Retrieved August 1, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. Free to read
  15. ^ a b Hung, Steffen. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  16. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2015-05-28. 
  17. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – 25 or 6 to 4". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "RPM's Top 100 of 1970". RPM. 1971-01-09. Retrieved 2017-02-17. 
  19. ^ "Top 100 1970 – UK Music Charts". Uk-charts.top-source.info. Retrieved 2015-05-28. 
  20. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1970/Top 100 Songs of 1970". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2015-05-28. 
  21. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_torOTK5qc
  22. ^ Chicago-Admin. "Constantine Maroulis releases his version of Chicago classic: 25 Or 6 To 4". Chicago – The Band. Archived from the original on April 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 
  23. ^ Coulton, Jonathan (2005-11-18). "When I'm 25 or 64". Retrieved 2016-10-03.