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Photo by József Hajdíº — X-Ray Records

Now this
is truly hip
(or spine, or rib):
x-rays recycled
into jazz
& rock
‘n’ roll!

What began as a reaction to wartime rationing, it seems, went underground, & by the 1950s, millions of short-lived records — roentgenizdat — circulate on the black market, wearing out long before the bones whose negative images they bear. But they are cheap & easy to make. Soon, Soviet teenagers are rocking around the clock.

The apparatchiki are horrified. This is not music, says Khrushchev, but cacophony! The masses are asses. Their bodies’ subversive urges must be subordinated to the will of the people.

Then on Mayday, 1967, thousands of youths, instead of ogling the annual parade of missiles, spontaneously begin to dance in Red Square, doing the twist. Pandemonium! The police wade in with truncheons, fracturing skulls, snapping clavicles: more grist for the illicit record mills. The biggest roentgenizdat rings are broken up, their leaders sent to the gulags, but it’s no use.

Chubby Checker
& Chuck
Berry spin at
78 revolutions
per minute.
erase as
they play.
The ghosts
of living bones
roll over
& over.


Thanks to alert reader Mlle. X for bringing these links to my attention. Do go take a look at the rest of the Hajdíº photos.

9 Replies to “Roentgenisdat”

  1. I sort of free-associated with this. First I thought of those old movies where Voodoo practitioners supposedly stick needles into dolls of their enemies, thus causing them pain. Then I wondered what it would feel like to be the victim of having a turntable needle stuck in my X-ray. Would it be like pins and needles that you get when your foot goes to sleep? Or would it be great? Would it give me long or extended play?

  2. marja-leena – Yeah! And I didn’t find them at all morbid. I mean, these aren’t the bones of dead people, they’re live bones, like in the old song about Ezekiel.

    Brett – It’s kind of hard not to free-associate with material this rich. I like the direction you’re going –maybe even better than the direction I went in. (Thanks for adding “supposedly.” In fact, contrary to popular culture, sticking pins in dolls was never a Voodoo thing. That’s strictly a European witch-belief.)

  3. Okay, I looked at the post with fresh eyes this morning and recast some of it as prose, which it wanted to be. But I’m grateful to Brett for encouraging me to think about the needle, whose role in the ephemerality of this medium fascinates me, since it is so close to my own fantasy of the ideal reader.

  4. I know you weren’t. I was volunteering information. I’m sure I was influenced in my choice of words by having just read those same words at your place — but when they popped into my head, I had no idea where they’d come from. It’s interesting the way the mind works.

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