Here’s a remarkable Grateful Dead collectible we’ve just listed: a set of four 10″ 2-Track tapes from the mixing session of the ultra-rare Grateful Dead single, “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed,” with nearly two hours of unreleased–and very different–mixes.
As Dead collectors know, this single (with picture sleeve!) was issued in very limited numbers in fall 1968, in advance of the release of the Dead’s second album (and psychedelic masterpiece) Anthem of the Sun. The single, as they say in England, failed to ‘trouble the charts’ and now regularly sells for more $500 to $700.
“Dark Star,” however, became a Dead Classic. As Wikipedia notes: 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.”
These four reels capture a live-in-the-studio mixing session where the band, during their most experimental period, demonstrate their complete lack of conventionality. The seventy nine (!) full or partial mixes of “Dark Star” and 12 of “Born Cross-Eyed” feature 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. Listening provides a fascinating glimpse into their working methods and willingness to try almost anything.
A more complete description of these unique tapes can be found here. And if you don’t know Anthem of the Sun, do yourself a favor and check it out. Whatever you think of the Dead, it’s a psychedelic classic of the highest order.
-Jeff Gold, October 5, 2021