Grateful Dead – 4 Master Tapes From ‘Dark Star’ Mixing Session / Nearly 2 Hours of Alternate Mixes

Four 10” audio tapes, comprising the ‘live’ mixing session for the Grateful Dead’s 1968 single “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed.” These remarkable and previously undocumented tapes contain nearly two hours of alternate versions of both songs.

In the pre-digital era, songs were mixed ‘live’—an engineer played back the multi-track master tape, and the artist and/or producer adjusted the volume, panning, and effects for each track manually.  With complex mixes, this often resulted in multiple people adjusting faders, dials and switches simultaneously–while trying to stay out of each others way.  The mixes were captured on separate 2-track tapes, such as these.

“Dark Star” and “Born Cross-Eyed” date from the Dead’s most experimental period, and these mixes document both their working process and the band’s complete lack of conventionality.  There are numerous fascinating experimental versions, mostly in mono, with various instruments dropping in and out, sound effects added or subtracted, vocals isolated, and tracks speeded-up or slowed-down.

Some mixes are abandoned after only a few seconds, while others last half or two-thirds the length the song.  Some mixes focus on distinct sections of “Dark Star,” and others are mixes of the complete song.  In total, there are 79 partial or full mixes of “Dark Star,” and 12 of “Born Cross-Eyed.”

We acquired these from an archivist who rescued them from San Francisco’s defunct Columbus Recorders.  The Dead mixed their second album, Anthem of the Sun at Columbus; presumably these tracks were mixed there as well. The tape boxes are unlabeled, so we have no information about which band members supervised the mix, though it’s a good bet they included Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh, who oversaw Anthem.

According to Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip, the “Dark Star” single was released circa May 1968 “in anticipation of the July release of Anthem of the Sun” and “was probably recorded (or assembled) during the November ’67 recording sessions in L.A…The single failed to make the slightest dent in the charts or attract much attention—and in any event, Warner Bros. only pressed about 2,000 copies” (which now sell for up to $750.)

From Wikipedia: “Dark Star” was an early Grateful Dead classic which the group often used as a vehicle for extended jamming sessions during live performances. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and was ranked at number 57 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time…After 1973, “Dark Star” fell out of the normal rotation at Dead shows…Being present for a “Dark Star” performance became a “Holy Grail” for Deadheads. The song became so legendary that it was often referred to as “IT” by dedicated Heads. Knowing this, the Dead would sometimes tease the song’s introduction before switching into another song, finally bringing it back in the end of the seventies on New Year’s 1978, at the closing of Winterland.”

Included is a digital transfer of each of the reels.  With Recordmecca’s written lifetime guarantee of authenticity.


FS= false start; a brief, abandoned mix

LFS= long false start; a longer abandoned mix, or a mix focusing on a particular section of the song

Full Song = a mix of the entire song

Reel 1

30 mixes of Dark Star, all mono

First section of song: LFS, FS, LFS, LFS, LFS

Second section of song: 20 takes, all FS

First section of song: FS, LFS, LFS

Full song: 4 mixes, one possibly the released single

Reel 2

31 mixes of Dark Star, all mono, no complete versions 

12 FS


3 FS


16 FS

Reel 3

14 mixes of Dark Star, stereo & mono

LFS stereo

Full Song, very low vocal mix, different ending

FS, FS mono

10 stereo fragments, echo experiments, some vocals only, some speeded up vocals

Reel 4

5 mixes of Dark Star, 12 mixes of Born Cross Eyed 

Dark Star: FS, FS, Full Song, FS, FS

Born Cross Eyed: Full Song, Full Song, FS, FS, Full Song, Full Song, Full Song, FS, FS, Full Song, Full Song, FS

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