Almanac Music: ’25 or 6 to 4′ – Chicago





I first became aware of ‘Chicago’ when they were named ‘The Chicago Transit Authority’ and received quite a lot of airplay in Australia with their version of the Stevie Winwood song, ‘I’m A Man’ from their self-titled first album released in 1969.


The late 60s early 70s saw the advent of jazz-rock as a major music force with bands such as CTA, Blood,Sweat & Tears, and of course Chicago. I soon bought Chicago’s second album quickly becoming a firm favourite appearing at many a party at the time.


In the early 70s, Kush drew full houses at the Prospect Hotel in Kew featuring among their repertoire many of the songs of Chicago and other big band sounds, and it was then I really began to appreciate the sounds of Chicago.


Chicago first toured Australia in 1972 I think. It was the only time I saw an international act on consecutive nights – something I’ve never done since, and the sound was sensational even for Festival Hall. I just had to hear them a second time, and they did not disappoint me.


In my record collection now piled high in a cupboard out of sight there are a number of the earlier Chicago albums. With the death of Terry Kath they lost some of the raw hardness to their sound and became ‘softer’ particularly as Pete Cetera gained influence over the band and I lost interest in them unfortunately. But, I still love those early sounds of Chicago.




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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Good choice today Col. As we often say I prefer their early stuff with “Saturday in the Park” a favourite. I could google it but what does the title “25 or 6 to 4” mean?

  2. Richard Griffiths says

    One of the great Am to G to F chord progression songs of all time! Good choice Col.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Mickey, the story goes the band were at a recording session which went on to the early hours of the morning, someone asked the time, looked at the clock responded, ’25 or 6 to 4′. Became the tile for a song.

  4. Keiran Croker says

    Loved their early stuff Col. Introduced to them by my 4 year older brother. Really loved songs like Question 67 and 68. A great mix of experimental jazz brass ensemble and guitar rock.

    I saw them at Myer Music Bowl in 1977, which was my first big international act in concert. In fact that was the answer I gave on Rockwiz when Julia asked what was your first concert.

  5. Tony Forbes says

    There is a very good rockumentory on Netflix about Chicago that goes right from the start till the time they mellowed out with Peter Cetera. I love their version of ‘I’m a man’ featuring some great vocals and guitar from Terry Kath. Also like ‘Does anyone really know what time it is’, possibly written after Col’s story of 25 or 6 to 4?

  6. Tony Forbes says

    Richard, try Am, G, F#, F, Em. Not trying to be smart but I’m a musician and I couldn’t help myself!

  7. Epic choice Col. Loved early Chicago & Blood, Sweat & Tears (Spinning Wheel). “Make Me Smile” another great early song. Glad to see you’re past your ELO infatuation.
    Mickey – As you should recall Chicago songwriter & trombonist James Pankow was a Saturday arvo regular at the Broadway Hotel. “25 or 6 to 4” reflects his ambivalence about the rent money on the last race fave or hope for a roughie and have enough for fish and chips.. At least that’s how I remembered it.

  8. Thanks for this piece Col. I studied as a musician (trombone) at the Victorian College of the Arts. My teacher made the point (after I bemoaned sitting around waiting for the trombones to enter a symphony in the fourth movement) that it was an instrument that often led to leading bands and conduction orchestras. James Pankow and our own Daryl MacKenzie are great cases in point. Chicago were the only records my mum had in her collection that featured trombone so I gave them a fair workout as I was growing up.

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