What do you do if you’re living in the USSR in, say, 1957, and you’d like to press an illegal record of some banned rock and roll or jazz? Consumer tape recorders don’t exist, and in the USSR, vinyl is difficult to come by. How do you proceed?
One thing you might do is press your contraband beats into discarded X-rays. A police state does wonders for the sheer inventiveness of its citizens, does it not? Clever Russians eager to hear some liberating rock and roll would salvage exposed X-rays from hospital waste bins and archives and use them to make records.
In the 1946-1961 era, some ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film. The thick radiographs would be cut into discs of 23 to 25 centimeters in diameter; sometimes the records weren’t circular. But the exact shape didn’t matter so much, as long as the thing played.
“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev, the son of Nikita Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.” As author Anya von Bremzen elaborates: “They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole. ... You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan—forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”
I can’t wait until Record Store Day 2015, when limited edition X-ray releases will surely be some of the most sought-after purchases!
Previously on DM:
Vintage X-ray ‘vinyl’ from Russia
via Vinyl of the Day