Throwback Thursday | Grateful Dead At Cornell May 1977

The Grateful Dead's May 8, 1977 performance at Barton Hall on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY is just one of many powerful shows the band laid down that spring. Yet, when a high-quality recording of the show surfaced in 1985 and was spread quickly amongst fans, it rose to towards the top of the list of the most famous shows in Grateful Dead history. Today, 37 years to the day later, and after hundreds of crispy recordings of Dead shows have circulated, it still remains a fan-favorite.

The late Dick Latvala, the Grateful Dead's first official archivist, was a huge fan of Cornell '77. As noted by Nicolas Meriwether of the Grateful Dead archive, Latvala wrote this in his journal just based off an audience recording, “After a few hearings I remain pretty convinced that this is the best show I’ve yet heard from the 1977 tour. Of course, there are shows where they excel on some of the above tunes, but overall, I haven’t heard a finer show. Every song is done well and what is extremely nice is that they put extra charge into some of their age-old standards that usually always sound the same. The jam that ends the second set is outstanding. It has to be one of the best 'Not Fade Away's I’ve ever heard ... 'Morning Dew' was possibly the best version yet, with a burning finish ...”

When a recording of 5/8/77 was entered into the prestigious National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, the show gained even more fame. Unbelievably, the Grateful Dead doesn't have a master tape of Cornell '77 in its archives, which is why it was passed up for release on last year's May '77 box set. The great Betty Cantor-Jackson recorded the show and it was one of hundreds of soundboard recordings to reach fans hands in 1985 through an auction of her storage space. When asked about the status of the source tape, current Grateful Dead legacy manager David Lemieux told Relix, "I do not know specifically but I have heard from many people that they know where it is and they know who has it and that’s fine. We’ve certainly made a note that we’d love to have it back as we would with any master Grateful Dead tape that we don’t have in the vault. But there’s really nothing we can do about it. We’re not going to pay for our own tape. That’s one thing I don’t think we’d ever do is to pay to buy them back and I don’t think they’ve been offered to the band in a long, long time. They know where we are, we’re easy to find and I think it has been made clear that we would love to have them back. Some people would just rather have the tapes in their closet than in the vault, but that’s fine. It is what it is. Again, there’s nothing we can do, we don’t lose sleep over it, but it is as it is."

For further reading on Cornell '77, we highly recommend Blair Jackson's essay and Meriwether's piece. With all that in mind, here's streams of the soundboard recording via NuttyRiv3r as well as an audience tape:

[Soundboard w/ audience patches at points]

Notes on source: Betty Board Portion -- Master 7" Nagra reels 1/2 track @ 7.5ips -} Sony PCM 501. Playback on Sony PCM 701 -} DAT (Digital Transfer) -- Rob Eaton DBX Decoding (Spring '99) Playback on Panasonic 4100 DAT -} DB 924 D/A -} Dolby 361's w/dbx K9-22 Cards -} DB 124 A/D -} Neve Capricorn (Digital mixing console) -} DB 300S -} Panasonic 4100 DAT -} DAT -} Digi Coax Cable -} Tascam CD-RW 700 -} CDR (x1) -} SHN (Rob Eaton remaster) Audience Portion -- Steve Maizner's Sony ECM-990 -} Sony TC-152 aud master -} First Gen Reel -} played directly to hard drive. The excellent aud splices were normalized and patched using ProTools by Karen Hicks Culled from a May 6, 1999 post by Rob Eaton to dnc - - I recently re-decoded 5/5/77 and 5/8/77. I went into Right Track Studios in NYC (my home base studio ) set up in studio B (which is the premier state of the art Digital Music Studio in world). I had clean dat copies (provided by Tim Daulton) that were NOT decoded. I set up a chain consisting of: Panasonic Sv4100 AES out-} DB Technologies 924AD (24bit/96k capability) -} Dolby 361 Modules w/DBX K9-22 cards -} Neve Capricorn 32bit point processing/full 24bit Digital Console -} DB Technologies 122s 24bit/16bit conversion and 44.1k/48k sample rate conversion- -} Panasonic Sv4100 Dat AES in. This is State of the Art Technology, getting as much of the music that was on the tapes as possible. The thing about DBX that nobody else got is that in order to decode it properly the volume into the decoder has to be exact, otherwise the tapes can be to bass heavy or to bright and compressed. These tapes are absolutely the best possible reproductions of the dig tapes made from the masters (I only wish I had the actual reels so I could do a proper azimuth adjustment on them).

[Audience Recording by Steve Maizner]

 

[Published on: 5/8/14]

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