When Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union came to an end in the 1950s, many things were scarce, chief among them food. So it’s no surprise that vinyl was in short supply in Russia during the decades in which Westerners were churning out jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music. Faced with a shortage in the only recognized music recording medium available, ingenious Soviets began recording bootlegged tunes on discarded X-ray films that they salvaged from hospital trash cans.
“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says Russian author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Marsha’s brain scan—forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”