Bad Pennies

Words and Music: Pat Drummond

from an idea concocted with John and Carolyn Hamiliton, Glen Innes, N.S.W.

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Bad pennies is possibly the most complex piece of work I have ever written. It is constructed concurrently around three templates. The initial couplet of each verse is set in sequences of two 4/4 and one 2/4 bars; providing ten beats to work with. The lyric is constructed so that a 'half' or 'vowel' rhyme consistently falls on beats 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8 of each such section. Additionally, the lyrics across each section are written so that each line decreases by one syllable (6,5,4 and 3; before returning to 6 for the final line.) Go on and count them! The bridge is pure word play. Looking for a storyline bizarre enough to suit such a contrived construction, I was delighted when the plot for 'a coin collectors detective novel' set within a four and a half minute song; emerged from a particularly enjoyable bottle of port and some mischievous comments by John and Carolyn Hamilton, in Glen Innes one evening. A work song for those of you who never want to to have to work again.


That it happ'ned at all

in a town as small

as Bedford Falls

meant they'd all

talk about it for years.


Senior constable Greeve

He stared at The Chief

Years in the police

even he

couldn't believe his ears.


He got down to the graveyard. My God! It was a Mess!

He said, "What kind of animal could do a thing like this?"


So he got on the phone

to old Joe Malone

Old Joe he owns

the only

Funeral Home in town.


Got lids on the caskets

Screws all fastened

fitted with clasps

and the last

casket back in the ground.


Put it down to a drifter. Some person

passing through; some loco loser with nothing better to do.


Chorus; "Bad pennies." said the people of the town.

"Bad pennies. You can't keep a bad man down."


It was six months later

Sixth of May, May Day

When the call came

in to say

It's happened again.


It was just like before

except there were more

three, maybe four

near the wall

all at the Northern end.


And the hair on his neck rose as they drove through the gate.

Every one of them headstones bore the same damned date.


He went down to the court

got out the report

and What he saw

made him sure

there had to be a link.


Seems that all of them died

when a bus collide-

ed with a slide

off the side

they went down Dead Man's Sink.


It was 1930 in the middle of Easter week. It took twenty four hours to get the bodies out of the creek.




The town went wild with speculation; vile unfounded allegations.

Greeves, he formed a deputation to prevent more desecrations.

But, despite investigations, he could find no motivation

so there was no charge ever laid

and by the spring of '88

the town slipped back to it's old pace.

That was the year I moved away.


It was six years later

I was a waiter

carrying trays

in a place

made for the uptown trade.


T'was some kind of forum

That's when I saw him

Givin' a talk

I was sure

T'was Joe Malone's son's face.

He was standing on the podium. Saying "Fifty grand a pop!"

When I saw what he was holdin'. It was then that the penny dropped!


I heard someone whisper,

"Hey Listen Mister,

that man is the


son of a bitch in town!


We were there at the shop

when he dropped them off

we watched in shock

as he drops

those vintage pennies down.


Thirty years of collecting and I've never seen any. So where did he get them?

seven sets of mint condition....1930 pennies!" You know the world is full of lies.

Sometimes the truth of the matter is as close as the pennies on a dead man's eyes.

Bad pennies I said "There's one thing I can tell you.

Bad pennies, They weren't pennies from heaven. They were pennies from....."


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