The Brief: scratching music onto X-rays like bootleggers in Soviet Russia

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By Jack Parrock
The Brief: scratching music onto X-rays like bootleggers in Soviet Russia
Copyright  EURONEWS

Music enthusiasts in Belgium have been reviving a technique for scratching music onto X-rays.

The unusual recording method was used in the Soviet Union to listen to music like jazz and rock and roll which was banned by the government at the time.

Speaking to Euronews, Stephen Coates from X-Ray Audio, said the technique could be traced back to Soviet bootleggers looking to share and profit from censored music.

"They worked in secret to copy forbidden jazz, rock and roll and forbidden Russian music, make their own records on X-ray film which was then distributed, sold and shared as we would say," he said.

The Russian bootleggers of the 1960s used x-ray film because it was cheap and easily accessible - vinyl wasn't available, and the means to print records was controlled by the Soviet regime.

They were known as bone records and each one cost about the same as a quarter of a bottle of vodka. While the quality wasn't anywhere near as good as vinyl, Russians could play three minutes or so of music they loved.

Today, the revival project included x-ray record creators who were once imprisoned or forced into the Gulags

For Stephen Coates, and other collectors, the project more about just music but also preserving history.

"This story is an invisible story now in Russia. So for sure, older people remember these records, but really in the broader culture, it has been forgotten," he said.