Perhaps the most overlooked fact about the song "Take Five" is that it was not written by Dave Brubeck; rather, it was written by the quartet's saxophonist Paul Desmond.

The song was not intended to be a hit in any way. The whole album that the song first appears on, "Time Out", is an experimental foray into odd time signatures (besides the 5/4 of Take Five, there is the alternating 9/8 and 4/4 of Blue Rondo a la Turk, and the 3/4 and 7/8 of much of the rest of the album). In fact, Take Five was originally written as a drum exercise for drummer Joe Morello.

Brubeck himself has little to do in this song, playing a simple vamp of the three basic chords while Desmond and later Morello go to town soloing over this sparse backup.

There is even a break in the song where it switches to 4/4**. It is a tribute to these musicians that this switch, and indeed the awkward timing of this song, seems perfectly natural, even to the Western ear trained to 4/4 and 3/4 as being the "real" time signatures.

An edited version of the song was released as a single, with the drum solo chopped slightly and the piano break that leads into said solo removed. The B-side of the single was "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (mistitled "Blue Rondo a la Tuna" on the jukebox page).

Desmond's thoughts on "Take Five":

At the time I really thought it was kind of a throw-away. I was ready to trade the entire rights, lifetime-wise of "Take Five" for a used Ronson electric razor. And the thing that makes "Take Five" work is the bridge, which we almost didn't use. We really came within ... I shudder to think how close we came to not using that, because I said "Well I got this theme that we could use for a middle part". And Dave said, "Well let's run it through." And that's what made "Take Five".

Take Five was also used as the opening theme to a Playboy or Hugh Hefner televison show in the late 20th century.

And no one has yet mentioned that to "take five" means to take a break, as in "take five minutes off". It's often used to disassemble groups such as actors or musicians. Without this phrase as part of the vernacular, this song would not have had such a catchy title.
** One of my sources claims this, anyway; I listened to the Time Out version of the song several times with a pair of headphones and a pencil to tap out the beat and never found it. I could be wrong, or it could be a different version, like the mangled single version mentioned above.