Music on the Bones: the USSR’s underground X-Ray recordings of banned western music



The underground recordings and distribution of banned western music in the Soviet Union began even before the invention of cassette tapes. The phenomenon spread in the 1950s when fans of prohibited tunes from the west developed a creative recording method with their own media. The only problem was the lack of vinyl.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. With the help of a simple device, melomaniacs learned how to record illegal jazz and rock and roll on x-rays, acquired from hospital trash bins. In contrast to the deficit of vinyl, x-rays were aplenty. They were cut into circles using manicure scissors, and the hole in the middle was burnt through with a cigarette. The recording was made on one side, playable on a standard turntable. It was called “music on the bones” or “flexi disc.”

By 1958 authorities had caught on and the production of x-ray recordings became outlawed. What followed was the discovery and closing of the biggest organizations specializing in distribution of banned music.

More photographs of recorded x-ray originals can been seen on József Hajdú’s page, and as a lengthier report, dedicated to this phenomenon, on FastCo.



December 25 2014



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