‘Music on the Bones’

This post is about neither movies nor cocktails, but it is a rather cool and obscure chapter of 20th Century entertainment and global culture worthy of noting.

In 2009, I was hired to shoot a documentary on the lives of Orthodox Christian monks and in June of that year we found ourselves in Kiev, Ukraine. Our local fixer was an ex-KGB agent named Igor. As our van was tooling around the city, the Rolling Stones came on the radio. Igor started singing along and professed his long-term love for the ‘Stones. He waxed about he first listened to them ‘on the bones.’ We had no idea what he was talking about.

As it turns out, during the Soviet Era, contraband Western rock n’ roll was copied and distributed on the one medium that was free, could be engraved like a record and wouldn’t raise any eyebrows with the authorities: discarded X-rays. These recordings were known as roentgenizdat, literally ‘bone music’, and many Eastern Europeans would discover their forbidden loves in this way.

For the past eleven years, I’ve been on the lookout on eBay for a roentgenizdat to call my own. I finally acquired one this month. This x-ray recording is the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride. I haven’t quite figured out how I will display it, but I’m super excited to finally have this previously smuggled gem in my collection.

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