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These records were printed on human X-rays to sneak music into Soviet Russia

August 12, 2014

All photos: bujhm.livejournal.com

Turns out that Russia had hipsters, too. And rather than drink Pabst Blue Ribbon to express their commitment to counter-culture, they did some pretty cool shit.

Under Soviet control in the 1950s, Western music was nearly impossible to come by—and really expensive when you could find it. Not only was access to Western culture actively suppressed by the government, but general economic depression in the country meant that the supplies and wax necessary to etch proper records were scarce. Nonetheless, pop and jazz were quite popular in Russia at the time; citizens were able to listen through Hungarian radio stations that had access to the music.

That’s why industrious Russian hipsters (or “stilyagi”) developed an inexpensive and secret method of making their own records: etching them on old x-ray charts. The stilyagi represented a silent but ever-present subculture in the U.S.S.R., one that championed the individualism inherent to capitalist society (roughly corresponding to the beatnik generation of Americans) over the dominant nationalism of the day. They emulated Western fashion, and yes, dug in hospital dumpsters for old x-rays so they could rock the fuck out.

Made from cheap plastic and radio recordings, the records (technically flexidiscs, but called either “bone music” or music “on the ribs”) were allegedly of brutal quality, didn’t last long, and were playable on only one side—but they were cheap, and readily available on the black market.  X-ray plates were the most common and least expensive source for a suitable material. Eventually, the practice was discovered by Soviet officials, and creating, distributing, and even owning the records became illegal. Only some specimens survive today—check a couple of them out in the gallery above.

 

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