Book Review – “X-Ray Audio: The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone” Edited by Stephen Coates (2015)

xraybookI’m not much of a crazy format guy when it comes to vinyl, though I’ll confess to a certain weakness for both colored vinyl and 10″ records.  I’d seen something online a while back that caught my eye, though – a record that looked like a flexi disc, but that was in fact cut into a piece of x-ray film.  It turns out this was a method of underground bootleg recording in the Soviet Union back in the late unpleasantness that was the 1950s and 1960s, and there was a new book in the works on the subject.  Since I’ve been into books longer than I’ve been into records, I shot the niche publisher some money for a pre-order, and a couple of weeks ago I got a pleasant surprise when my copy of X-Ray Audio arrived in the mail.


I’m not going to tell you a lot about the story behind these discs as I am about the book itself.  It’s a well-produced piece of art in its own right – hardbound, 160 pages, and heavily illustrated, roughly half of which is given over to full page images of various old school Soviet picture and x-ray records.  Plus if you order the special edition (£5 more than the “regular” price) you get your own flexi disc made to look like an old x-ray record, with the added bonus that it actually plays (I just played mine).  £30 isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t a lot to pay for a nice hardback like this, so if you’re interested you can order HERE.

Editor Stephen Coates does a nice job of bringing in some Soviet x-ray record experts to tell the story behind these intriguing recordings.  Long story short, x-rays of the era were soft enough to “cut” onto using a recording lathe, but sturdy enough to hold up to at least a handful of plays.  Stories of clandestine recording sessions, raids by the secret police, and the thrill of buying an illicit record (and the agony of taking it home and realizing it was a piece of crap) form the framework of the narrative.  it’s a relatively quick read, but it covers the necessary bases quite well.

If you want to learn more about tX-Ray Audio: The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone, you can check out the x-rayaudio website HERE.

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