Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Good To The Bone

In a world...where you can stream whatever kind of music you like on your toaster oven or steam iron, it seems unlikely to think of the measures people once had to resort to in order to catch their favorite tunes.

Ever heard of "bone music"? 

That's what they called it when Russians, after World War II, could not just enjoy whatever music, or art, or literature, whatever, they liked.  There was a culture minister, sort of like our Steve Bannon but much more affable, who decided what was "good" for the people. And American popular music was definitely not good for the people, it was ruled.

So, Russians dug through hospital trash and found old x-rays, and the see-thru pictures of people's fractured fibulae and mangled metatarsals would be cut into circles, and often a lit cigarette would be used to make a 1/4" hole in the middle.  And then, because a guy in what was then Leningrad and is now St. Petersburg (not the one in Florida, though) had purloined a recording lathe from the Russian Army, they cut copies of American 78 rpm records onto the x-ray film.

Image result for russian bone recordsA recording lathe is the opposite of a record player, you might say. It's a machine that etches the grooves that hold the music on a record.  Here's a video that shows the process in rough form, but trust me, it's more fun to listen to records than to produce them.

Image result for russian bone recordsAnd so the Russian music bootlegging business began; while back here we could run down to Kresge's and buy records for 39 cents, Russians had to approach a guy who knew a guy on some dark street corner and ask for a copy of "Rock Around The Clock" and hope it sounded anything like Bill Haley and the Comets once they got it home. And the culture czars took this very seriously! People found selling, or even possessing, these fakey records did serious jail time.

We take things for granted far too often around here.

Click here to see what people were listening to, and smile and be glad that you can download Bone Thugs-n-Harmony without having Russian cossacks beat your bones over it.

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