It’s not often that I run across something online that I absolutely have to get one of. Combine the macabre, the Cold War, rock music, and a dash of creativity, and you’ve found the object of my desire.
In the early 1950s, American rock-n-roll began to infiltrate the culturally-isolated Soviet Union and its protectorates… and, of course, was promptly outlawed. This music, however, still found its way onto the streets through a bit of ingenuity combined with what was available at the time. Underground record manufacturers known as roentgenizdat used amateur record engravers like the Voice-O-Graph and the most plentiful, useful, and cheap substitute for record blanks they could find: used x-ray negatives. The x-rays warped easily, weren’t quite as good as the real thing, but they took a groove well enough to be worth a day’s lunch money to risk arrest and experience a little bit of the USA. These bootleg albums were sold on the sly, in markets and through friends-of-a-friend, in innumerable quantities. The process was eventually killed off with the advent of cheap, easy magnetic tape recorders, but these albums live on in the hands of private collectors.
I’ve looked through eBay and the sort of online haunts where these albums would be most likely to turn up for sale, all with no luck. The x-ray material was likely rather fragile, and only a small number of these albums — if they weren’t confiscated or destroyed — would have made it to modern times.
Collecting is fraught with the gulf between ‘wanting’ and ‘having.’ The desire to overcome that gulf is what produced the roentgenizdat in the first place, a way to get music that the public could not have