#930: ‘Penelope’ – Pinback

There have been plenty of songs about loss throughout the course of musical history, ranging from the loss of a parent (‘Wake Me Up When September Ends‘, by Green Day), the loss of a child (‘Tears In Heaven‘, by Eric Clapton), or the loss of one of many inanimate objects. The main underlying theme in all of these though, is sadness based around the fact that something once cared for is no longer around. For some reason though, this sort of sadness isn’t appreciated as much when it is directed towards a pet.

Sure, plenty of songs about dead pets have existed before, yet most of them don’t tend to mention the animal in particular, which in my mind, tends to make the song somewhat more relatable. After all, do you think you’d have the same reaction to Paul Simon’s ‘Mother And Child Reunion‘, Amy Winehouse’s ‘October Song‘, or Queen’s ‘All Dead, All Dead‘, if you knew it was about the death of a dog, canary, and cat, respectively?

In the case of Pinback’s ‘Penelope’ however, the pet in question was a goldfish. While it’s sad that death of a pet fish wouldn’t get as much sympathy as that of any other animal, it’s almost ironic then that this song would go on to become one of Pinback’s best known tracks.

As the lyrics tend to suggest, Penelope was a goldfish owned by Armistead Burwell Smith IV (or Zach Smith, if you prefer), who died of dropsy. The song, while not exactly sad in the traditional sense, is still rather touching. It rather plainly states how the pet died before going into more abstract lyrics about doing justice towards the animal’s memory. It’s sad, yet still hauntingly pretty, and truly deserves to be one of their best known songs.

What I have always found strange though, is that I discovered this song the same way I’ve mentioned some other songs in the past; through someone else’s love song mixtape. I had found this song listed on a mixtape I found online, however it was a love song mixtape, and for the longest time, I hadn’t paid attention to the lyrics, just thinking it to be a run of the mill love song. To be fair though, considering the content, I guess it is a love song of sorts, eh?

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