Jazz on Bones
Jazz on bones, Music on Ribs or Roentgenizdat as the local Russians say, Probably aren’t terms many of you are familiar with. In the 1950’s and 60’s the Cold war was in full swing, Americans were sending soldiers out to Vietnam and the USSR were building a big wall through Berlin. In their effort to stop democracy the Soviet Unions decide to put a ban on all western music.
With censorship in the USSR so high, people started turning their own kitchens into cultural hotspots. Places where they could gather freely without prying eyes and exchange ideas. Kitchens became unofficial lecture halls, nightclubs, art galleries, bars. Politics were debated, forbidden music played and underground art and literature was swapped.
“Songs about fighting and fucking, well they didn’t do that, so the authorities wanted to get rid of them. There was a huge subculture of native Russian music that was nearly wiped out” – Stephen Coates
But with the demands for western music so high something needed to be done, people wanted to listen to artists like Elvis, The Beatles, Bill Haley, The Rolling Stones & Ella Fitzgerald. Smuggling vinyl was a dangerous past-time, I mean who really wants to end up in a Soviet prison?
One man named Ruslan Bogoslowski, built his own record cutting machine and started cutting record out of old x-rays. Bogoslowski would eventually spend five years imprisoned in Siberia for this innovation.
“Firstly, X-rays themselves are photographic film. You can record onto many plastic type materials but X-rays that at that time just happened to be pretty good at holding the groove of recorded music. That was just technical chance. The second reason they used X-rays was because they were readily available. The Soviet authorities had issued an order that hospitals had to get rid of X-rays after a year because they were highly flammable. So you had a situation where hospitals needed to get rid of X-rays and the bootleggers wanted them. It was a natural match! They would literally go to the back door of the hospital, tap on the door and an illicit trade would take place, a swap for a bottle of vodka or a few roubles.”