How could we get through life these days without sites like snopes.com, which verifies or discredits various urban legends, or The Straight Dope, which has a record of meticulous research and reliability that is unmatched? I went to Straight Dope to find the answer to one of those nagging things that popped into my head a few days ago. It was the vexing philosophical question that many of us spent hours debating when we were younger, without satisfaction: What the heck does Chicago's great song "25 or 6 to 4" mean? Is it a sly reference to drugs, a suble tribute to spirituality? Of course, it had the answer, and it's a lot simpler tham many would probably like. Robert Lamm of the band, who wrote the song, gives us the scoop:
"The song is about writing a song. It's not mystical."
[. . .]
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 (2)6 minutes to 4 a.m. (3:35 or 3:34 a.m.)
Once we understand this, some of the lyrics suddenly become much clearer:
Waiting for the break of day--He's been up all night and now it's getting close to sunrise.
Searching for something to say--Trying to think of song lyrics.
Flashing lights against the sky--Perhaps stars or the traditional flashing neon hotel sign.
Giving up I close my eyes--He's exhausted and his eyes hurt from being open too long, so he closes them.
Staring blindly into space--This expression can be seen often on the faces of writers and reporters. Trust me.
Getting up to splash my face--Something you do when you're trying to stay awake, though a good cup of Starbuck's does wonders for Cecil and me.
Wanting just to stay awake, wondering how much I can take--How far can he push himself to get the song done?
Should I try to do some more?--This is the line that makes many think it's a drug song. But it is just as easily construed as a frustrated writer wondering if he should try to do some more lyrics/songwriting.
Aren't you glad you come here? Where else you gonna get such vital stuff?