Feather in Your Cap
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Feather in Your Cap (3:42)
    Available on Odelay and 5 other releases.
    Beck Hansen: Bass, Guitar (Acoustic), Piano, Producer, Vocals
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    Rob Schnapf: Mix, Producer
    Tom Rothrock: Mix, Producer
  2. Feather in Your Cap (K Records version) (1:12)
    Available on One Foot In The Grave and 1 other release.
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Vocals
    Calvin Johnson: Producer
Feather in Your Cap [Version (a)]:

Make a move with what you can
Dead waters rise higher than your mind
Disappointment is a feather in your cap
You want the truth so you can crush it in your hand

There's no map that can tell you where you are
You're in between things that only go half way
Your tangled brain, your tired old refrain
You'll be singing it in your tired old asylum

You want the best, you want contests
My eyes are filled with prizes you've been showing
Your disappointment is a card up your sleeve
Place your bets at the door before you leave
Feather in Your Cap (K Records version) [Version (b)]:

Bust a move with what you can
Dead phone machine piled on the table
Disappointment is a feather in your cap
You want the truth, not when it's unplanned

There's no map that can tell you where you are
You're in between things that only go half way
You want the best, you want contests
Where everybody loses on purpose by mistake
The Song:

Two different recordings of this song have been released.

The first was on the "It's All In Your Mind" single in 1995, which was a short three-song collection of One Foot in the Grave outtakes from a few years prior. (This version was also later included on One Foot Deluxe.) This short version is just two verses, sung over some acoustic guitar. Not quite as melodic as the later version, this early take is raw and sounds and feels more like a demo, especially when compared with the fuller version recorded the next year.

The second version was recorded in the first two weeks of October 1994, when Beck was home on a month-long break from touring. He went into the studio with Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf from BongLoad and redid the song. At the time, he thought he was recording it for his next album, but eventually changed his mind and went to work with the Dust Brothers. Other songs from these Bong Load sessions include "Brother" and "Ramshackle." If he had continued in this direction, Odelay would have been drastically different! Much more melancholy, at least. Anyway, this new version of "Feather in Your Cap" was eventually released on the Suburbia soundtrack (as well as a "Sissyneck" single, and years later on Odeluxe).

As for the song itself, "Feather" is a beautiful folk tune. The second recording is filled out beautifully with bass and piano, and Joey Waronker's drums add tension under the laidback melody.

The lyrics, despite having very few rhymes, flow very naturally. Beck's calm vocals suit the song and the music. While the song has some great lines ("Disappointment is a feather in your cap" or "Your tangled brain / Your tired old refrain / You'll be singing it in your tired old asylum," for instance), the complete picture is a bit vague. Beck seems to be writing of a person, or a character, but it's hard to tell if his attitude is positive, negative, or indifferent. Some of the lines sound almost like insults ("Your tangled brain / Your tired old refrain"), but others feel more distant ("You want the best / You want contests").

Played live 9 times:
Earliest known live version: October 25, 1994
Latest known live version: November 14, 2002

As said, Beck re-recorded "Feather In Your Cap" in October 1994. No live versions are known to have preceded that, despite the One Foot outtake (which was not released right away anyway).

Dead Phone Machine version - Mellow Gold tour 1994

But in October 1994, it appears Beck did begin to play it live on occasion, and a few were caught on bootleg/known setlists. During the end of his Mellow Gold tours from October-December 1994, Beck was known to have played the song 5 times. A few these versions were part of his acoustic folk song medley, but a few were complete (and one was both!).

Tired Old Refrain version - Odelay tours 1996-1997

The nex time Beck was known to play the song was an acoustic show during the Odelay tours, on June 5, 1996 in Toronto. The audience made all sorts of relatively obscure requests, including "Feather." "I haven't done this one in about four years [sic]," Beck announced before starting the song. He played the first two verses from the Suburbia version, then used a harmonica instead of singing the third. We also know of it showing up on one other acoustic set, but I assume it may have popped up more than that during Odelay shows.

Place Your Bets version - 2002

Beck played the first verse of "Feather" on August 17 2002. He threw it into a medley of his old songs on November 14, 2002 too. Don't know why he's adverse to playing the whole thing. It's a cool tune, I'd like to hear a full version one of these days.

The song has always been acoustic from what I can tell, and half of these 10 or so versions have just been medley/incomplete.