“Handy “Dandy” (1990)

Christopher Ricks hands us over eight pages on “Handy Dandy” in his chapter from Dylan’s Vision of Sin that focuses on Envy. He gives attention to the song linking him and Michael Gray to how they both find the song terrific.  Ricks distinguishes himself from Gray in how he sees the song as scary, and he ties what he calls the “You’ll say / He’ll say routine” in at as part of the fright, “as if someone is being instructed in a code of behavior.”  This makes the “said”/”dead” rhyme ominous, threading the motif of threat through the song:


You say, “What are ya made of?”
He says, “Can you repeat what you said?”
You’ll say, “What are you afraid of?”
He’ll say, “Nothin’! Neither ’live nor dead.”

Yes, as Ricks notes, what’s neither live nor dead is money, HD is made of money, and probably drug money, i.e. the candy that he’s just like with sugar (on top? over the top?).

Ricks refers the game handy-dandy, defined the OED as “A children’s game in which a small object is shaken between the hands by one of the players, and, the hands being suddenly closed, the other player is required to guess in which hand the object remains.”  The expression has been used to mean “change of places, alternately, in rapid alternation.”   Sounds a little like Dylan himself.  Is Dylan the “hand-dandy” in the song?  Here are a couple of turn of the century dandies:

Image result for dandies

And here’s an audio of the only time Bob performed it live, June 27, 2008:



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