Wednesday, February 07, 2007


DAN WRITES... Hey Jim,

While spending a fine evening of good company and spirits with your son, we happened across an extremely catchy tune that is still in my head to this day. The song was "25 or 6 to 4" sung by the band Chicago. Although I now know the correct words (I was singing it 250624) what exactly do those numbers mean? are there multiple meanings that I am missing?

Well, it’s not a terribly complicated song. Lets look at the lyrics:

Waiting for the break of day
Searching for something to say
Flashing lights against the sky
Giving up I close my eyes
Sitting cross-legged on the floor
25 or 6 to 4

Staring blindly into space
Getting up to splash my face
Wanting just to stay awake
Wondering how much I can take
Should I try to do some more
25 or 6 to 4

Feeling like I ought to sleep
Spinning room is sinking deep
Searching for something to say
Waiting for the break of day
25 or 6 to 4
25 or 6 to 4

So... our young man from Chicago is having a rough time “maintaining”. It’s after 3:30 in the morning (more accurately, about twenty five or six to four*) and he just can’t seem to figure out whether he should go to sleep or stay awake. He wants to sleep, he wants to stay awake, he wants to say something... Oy! He just doesn’t quite know what he wants does he? Along with these lyrics is music that is a bit topsy-turvy, edgy and unnerving.

When we put this music and lyrics into the perspective of when the song was released, 1967, it can only mean one of two things. He’s either coming down from an LSD trip or a night of speed. From the line “Should I try to do some more?” you would have to assume it wasn’t LSD. You wouldn’t take another dose of LSD to get you through those moments at the end of your trip when it’s just no fun anymore. On the other hand, he may be coming down from LSD and thinking about taking some speed to get him through until dawn but that is really neither here nor there.

Think about it. I mean we’ve all been there before, haven’t we?** You’ve been up all night, speeding or tripping your brains out, you’re dead tired, you're crashing so what was fun is no fun anymore. You could either wait it out and try to get some sleep but the sun will be coming up before you know it so maybe you should take another snort and stay up and go to bed early tomorrow. Tough decision. So now all this stuff is racing through your head... “What do I have to do tomorrow?”... “If I go to bed can I even sleep?”... “If I get to sleep, what time do I have to get up?”... “If I stay up, what time can I go to bed?”... “What do I have going tomorrow night?”... “Would I feel better if I got some sleep or would that just make me feel worse?”... “Geeze-Louise! What the hell was I thinking?! I’m NEVER going to do this again!” (Yeah, right!)

So there it is in a nutshell. Now that you think of it, it was pretty obvious wasn’t it?

*I’m not sure you would use this phrase anymore. Today everyone has digital watches so you would look at your watch and say “Three thirty four or five”. Back in the days of analogue dial watches, any time between 30 minutes and 59 minutes past the hour was referred to as time until the hour. Quarter ‘till or “to” the hour was H:45.

Sorry if this is already obvious to everyone, but I just wasn’t sure if this was lost lingo or not.

** See the previous post about “I lie a lot, but I wouldn’t lie about that, unless I’m lying about this”.


At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nowadays with digital watches, we use standard error bars and confidence intervals when reporting the time. so, a modern rendition of the song might be entitled, "25 +/- 1.8e-6 to 4" not as catchy.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous adamcno said...

also, nowadays you won't find kids following up LSD with speed. rather, we prefer to follow ecstasy with anti-depressants.

also, way to start making hardcore drug references the day after i tell all of my coworkers about your blog.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Ask Jim... said...

Hey! Don't ask if you don't really want to know ;)

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous adam said...

Hey there Jim! I hear that working on your antique car has started eating into your fishing time. What a terrible problem to have.

Say, I was getting crunk this weekend with some friends and they were ordering mixed drinks with Stoli vodka. I told them they were silly - why pay for nice vodka when you're just gonna mix it with a bunch of stuff anyway? They said that higher quality vodka will give you less of a hangover the next morning. I then told them they were extra silly - hangovers are caused by alcohol, not by the other stuff in booze that makes it taste better or worse.

So I want to know - what causes hangovers? And, is a hangover affected by...

1. the type of grain used to make the alcohol?
2. the minerals or other "impurities" that are in cheaper alcohol?
3. the number of girls who shoot down my pickup attempts?



At 2:09 PM, Anonymous adam said...

dear pappy,

when are you gonna get up off the turlet and answer my question?!

love, sappy

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this blog post is very old but I want to give another interpretation. In those days a favorite LSD was called Orange Sunshine. It came in an aspirin sized orange tab. There was a period when quantities of an identical looking tab appeared that was actually STP, an incredibly powerful hallucinogen that induces 3 day trips. When a dealer bought a batch of orange sunshine for resale someone had to determine whether it was LSD-25 or STP (== Six Two Phour). The test would provoke the sort of anxiety the poor protagonist in the song is experiencing.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Ask Jim... said...

Ah-ha-ha! Anonymous, I laugh because it's been so long ago that I wrote this that I just can't imagine what brought you here in the first place.

You have an interesting theory there but I'm old enough to remember orange sunshine and the stories about STP (a substance I never met in person nor ever knew anyone who did) but I don't remember having to be careful that you would mix one up with the other.

I'm not saying you are wrong but I am sticking to my original story.

(Phour? Really???? I don't think so but that is just one man's humble opinion.)

BTW... Thanks for the visit. Come again and debate anything here.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me the song always comes to mind whenever cleaning resin out of a bowl. The five rapid guitar bursts 1-2-3-4-5, then 1-2-3-4-5 a note lower, etc. seems to mimic perfectly the act of tapping the bowl to get more resin to fall out.

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Erica said...

The way I found this blog was googling "what is 25 or 6 to 4". I was googling it because this song is always in my head because the beeping of my washer and dryer after a load is the 1-2-3-4-5 that anonymous above me is referring to. How funny.


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