He went to Thorns School and Community College in Quarry Bank, where he met Ned's bass player Matt Cheslin. Penney used to live in a house near the Swan Hotel in Stourbridge, where he used to drink. He now lives within walking distance from there.
He formed Ned's Atomic Dustbin in 1988 while still at sixth form college. In the early 1990s they had several hit singles, including "Happy", "Kill Your Television" and "Not Sleeping Around". Together they released three successful albums (God Fodder, Are You Normal? and Brainbloodvolume). The band split up in 1995 after record company problems.
In 1998 he formed a new band, Groundswell, initially with former Ned's Atomic Dustbin guitarist Rat. The band released a few singles, and played some successful shows, but did not have much commercial success.
After Groundswell split he completed a degree course, and now works as Media officer for Wolverhampton Civic Hall, while lecturing part-time and writing a weekly column titled 'Up Penneyscope' for local newspaper The Express & Star.
In 2000 he reformed Ned's Atomic Dustbin (with an altered line up including Andy King (bass) and Martin Warlow (guitar)) for occasional gigs. The band completed a five date tour in 2004, and Penney continued to play occasional gigs with the band.
When asked recently in a magazine interview, "How would you like Ned’s to be remembered?", Jonn responds, "Ned’s? They were that band that sounded like nobody else; they were unique!"
In a recent interview, when asked about the happiest memory of being in Ned's, Penney replied:
|“||Glastonbury 1993. We headlined the NME stage (Blur supported us!) I couldn't see where the crowd ended; there were so many people. We struck up 'Kill Your Television' and the entire field bounced in unison — absolutely awesome to see.
I got a lump in my throat because there were so many people singing back those words I written in my bedroom or in the pub or at the breakfast table — they'd left my little world and infiltrated these thousands and thousands of other lives...
I didn't walk off stage that night; I floated.
In a 2009 interview, Penney discussed the loyalty of fans.
|“||We see masses of familiar faces every time we play - we were always pretty familiar with our audiences anyway and we're very lucky that so many of them are so loyal to us. People still fly in to shows from all over the world — Japan, Australia, Canada, U.S. and all over Europe. It's incredibly humbling to see these people keep coming back. I think we were lucky enough to have connected well with our audiences from very early on. Maybe it's because we were very young — similar age to the fans.||”|
Of the Ned's reunion and shows, Penney said:
|“||The reunion shows have gone down well and the fans gave us a massive welcome back, so we wanted to do something different for them and play the album that made it happen for us.
It was a time that was exciting for us and the fans; it is not an anniversary as such; we just wanted to celebrate that album and era.