How Soviet Russia’s Bootleggers Saved Rock N’ Roll Using X-Ray Plates

How Soviet Russia’s Bootleggers Saved Rock N’ Roll Using X-Ray Plates

During the days of Soviet Russia, while war and death was surfacing in every households, an underground movement of bootleggers started flourishing in the neighbouring cities of Moscow as they seem to in the most extreme conditions. Their defiance was incredibly dangerous, with a seemingly unimportant goal in mind, because with the end of the second World War and the beginning of a much colder war, the USSR began censoring the arts from the west.

Less about the content, the dictatorial rule of Stalin aimed to censor their arch enemy--United States, from influencing their culture in any way. Theatre, dance and music produced by foreigners or even Russians living in the United States had been banned in the region. This preceded to music like jazz, tango and rock & roll disappearing slowly from households. The rich culture of music listeners declined, but a few others didn’t lose hope.

These few hopeful ones began walking into hospitals to gather X Ray plates, with the goal of turning them into vinyl recordings. In Soviet Russia, X Rays were supposed to be destroyed after year of them being scanned. But in exchange for a little vodka, the workers at the hospitals gave away these X-rays to these future bootleggers.

These dissidents used homemade lathes to press recordings onto these X-ray scans. The records were then cut into circles using scissors and the central hole was burnt using a cigarette. Once the business kicked off, these images of pain and damage became solace of hope for lovers of rock & roll and jazz. With that, more music started getting ingrained into bones and the movement spread across cities of Soviet Russia. By the 1960s, Roentgenizdat (bone records) could be found on the black market in every Russian city.

But before one could realise, these  were put behind bars for committing the crime and perverting the Russian youth and these records disappeared until the death of Stalin. As of today, these underground bootleggers have left an unmatchable legacy in the history of music production that is now found in the flea markets of a much freer and accepting Russia.


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