Stop making cents. 5 songs about the Penny.

Canada’s iconic penny gets one step closer to extinction today as the Royal Canadian Mint officially stops distributing the coins to financial institutions. There are still 35 billion of them still in circulation, but that won’t stop our kids one day asking because of the following songs “What the heck is a penny?”

Creedence Clearwater Revival/Down on the Corner
(“You don’t need a penny, just to hang around.”)
The song tells the tale of the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys, and how they play on street corners to cheer people up and ask for nickels – although the do mention the penny in the lyrics. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 at the end of 1969. The flip side to the song, “Fortunate Son”, reached #14 on the United States charts on a few weeks before, which was the week before Billboard changed its methodology on double-sided hits. The song is so popular, The Beastie Boys sampled the song in the track “Time to Get Ill” from their Licensed to Ill album.

Five-Man Electrical Band/Signs
(“Then they passed around the plate at the end of it all, and I didn’t have a penny to pay.”)
“Signs” was originally released that year as the B-side to the unsuccessful single “Hello Melinda Goodbye”. Re-released in 1971 on the A-side, “Signs” reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Yet another act used a classic song with the penny in it as a sample – the opening line of the song, “And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply”, was sampled by Fatboy Slim for his song “Don’t Let The Man Get You Down”, from his Palookaville album.

The Beatles/Penny Lane
Locally the term “Penny Lane” was the name given to the area which includes Smithdown Place (where the terminus was located) and where Allerton Road becomes Smithdown Road and its busy shopping area. Penny Lane is named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader. The street is an important landmark, sought out by most Beatles fans touring Liverpool. In the past, street signs saying “Penny Lane” were constant targets of tourist theft and had to be continually replaced. Eventually, city officials just gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 and more theft-resistant “Penny Lane” street signs have since been installed though some are still stolen. Of course, I’ll take one, if you’ve got one to sell. The trumpet part was added after the rest of the song was finished. McCartney was watching the BBC when he saw a group called The New Philharmonia perform Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto #2.” He got the idea to add a trumpet part, and asked the group’s trumpet player, Dave Mason, to play on this. Mason brought 9 trumpets to the session, eventually deciding to use a B-flat piccolo trumpet. Mason, who is not the same Dave Mason from the group Traffic, played on a few other Beatles songs, including “A Day In The Life,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” and “All You Need Is Love.” John Lennon played piano and George Harrison played the conga drum. There is no guitar in the song, one of the rare Beatles tracks to not have one. And speaking of facial hair (what?), the first time The Beatles appeared with facial hair was in the promotional film for this song. This was also the first single by the Beatles to be sold with a picture sleeve in the UK, a practice rarely used there at that time, but common in the US and various other countries, such as Japan.

Eva Cassidy/Penny To My Name
(“How I wish I was alone/With a penny to my name.”)
Eva’s posthumously released recordings, including three UK number 1s, have sold more than ten million copies. In 2005, Amazon.com released a list of its top 25 best-selling musicians, which placed Cassidy in fifth position, behind The Beatles, U2, Norah Jones and Diana Krall, and far ahead of Elvis Presley and several other well-known stars.

Talking Heads/Stop Making Sense
Ha. I know…it’s a stretch. But anytime you get to list one of the greatest rock movies ever made, you do it. Shooting of Stop Making Sense spanned three live shows at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. Director Jonathan Demme has stated that one night of shooting was dedicated almost entirely to wide shots from a distance, to minimize the intrusion of cameras on stage. Demme had considered additional shooting on a soundstage made to recreate the Pantages Theater, but the band declined to do this, as they thought the lack of audience response would have hindered the energy of their performance. This shooting practice has led to a number of interesting continuity errors, including Tina Weymouth’s bass changing from a teal Veillette-Citron bass to a brown Höfner bass between shots, and a beach ball thrown toward stage that is never seen landing in the following shot. Others include minor instances of mismatched image and audio (notably, on “Found A Job,” a cymbal is heard even though Chris Frantz is not seen hitting one; a few bars later, he hits a cymbal, but no cymbal is heard).