The placement of Penny and the Quarters’ “You and Me” in a snack cookie ad exposed the unknown song to wide audiences. The song’s forthright sound of youthful love, complete with slightly off-kilter teenage vocals, makes a sweet soundtrack to an ad depicting a father and daughter chasing celestial sights and bonding.
Penny and the Quarters sneak into American hearts
Viewers of network television have no doubt seen the commercial. A father and daughter decide to try to catch a particular set of constellations, and they find what they are looking for and they enjoy it with the advertised snack. If the storyline doesn’t sound familiar, chances are audiences were caught off guard by the music.
The song is “You and Me” by Penny and the Quarters. The charming name notwithstanding, the band stands out because of how it sounds and the emotional chord it strikes. Without doing any research, I could tell that it was a song from at least four decades ago. Maybe the production quality gave it away, or contemporary American music is rarely imbued with that level of honest sweetness that isn’t an attempt to manipulate listeners.
The way the singer delivers the words makes her off-kilter sound more than acceptable. She is singing from the heart, emoting in the most open way. The words, too, play up the emotional impact of the song. The lyrics are simple but deep. “If the stars don’t shine/ if the moon won’t rise…if I never see the setting sun again…/as long as there is you and me…”
The grammaticality of the lyrics is beside the point, too. Some of the best songs in the history of popular music are ungrammatical. What matters is there are few sparse soul songs that carry as much emotional weight as “You and Me.”
The lyrics and the vocals dominate the soundscape. The female lead is joined by a male lead, presumably one of the Quarters. It sounds as though a guitar is strumming as the voices sing.
About Penny and the Quarters
In short, I wish I knew more. Interested parties should watch the YouTube video of the song, which at least allows audiences to hear the entire track. The comments can lead investigative types to figure out at least some of Penny and the Quarters’ backstory. It can also lead to other websites where other people are having the same discussion about this band and where they came from.
One YouTube commenter claimed to be a grandchild of the male lead that can be heard in the commercial. While perusing other sites, I read that Penny and the Quarters or their heirs were sought by a record company to pay royalties. (The song also appeared in “Blue Valentine” starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The movie was released in 2010.) The Guardian.com is one reliable site that has tried to figure out the whole story behind the teenagers who recorded some songs in a Columbus, Ohio studio in 1970. Even that much of the story leads to more questions. Because the group recorded in Columbus, Ohio doesn’t mean they were from there.
I searched in vain for everything I wanted to know about the young female singer, the presumed Penny of the band’s title. The story of Penny and the Quarters is worthy of at least one book and one film, if for nothing else, to consider what happened to the dreams of the young performers after little was done with their recordings, and presumably, none of them made their living from music. It is difficult to measure the exact scope of the tragedy here.