Crate Digging for X-Rays: Vinyl in 1950s Soviet Russia
A lesson in how to bootleg records.
Listening to rock ‘n’ roll and jazz in 1950s Soviet Russia was no easy task. While the demand for Western music was high, most records were banned by the Soviet government in an attempt to reduce Western cultural influence. In addition, it was also often expensive and difficult to locate original copies of popular records. In light of this problem, a few resourceful Soviet bootleggers turned to X-rays discarded by doctors and hospitals to get their music fix.
The Russian MacGyvers cut the X-rays into a circular shape with scissors and then burned the middle with a cigarette. The bootleggers then used a converted gramophone to press grooves into the discarded X-ray plate, resulting in a record that retained the skeletal qualities from its previous life.
According to historian Artemy Troitsky, however, buyers didn’t always get what they paid for.
Often these records held surprises for the buyer. Let’s say, a few seconds of American rock’n’roll, then a mocking voice in Russian asking: “So, thought you’d take a listen to the latest sounds, eh?”, followed by a few choice epithets addressed to fans of stylish rhythms, then silence.
Check out some examples of the X-ray records below
[h/t Laughing Squid]