"The Age of the Bones" was a period lasting about fifteen years during which the sound of forbidden Russian and Western music was completely associated with images of the human skeleton. It was a period of what might be called "roentgenizdat" - the audio equivalent of the "samidzat" private publication of banned written works.

In the Soviet states during the pre-glasnost era, many modern Western bands were banned for all sorts of reasons including 'neo-fascism', 'mysticism' and even 'obscurantism'. Much Russian music was also banned for a variety of other reasons. But a vibrant, secret and risky trade grew up in what became known as'Bones'or 'Ribs'. These were medical X-Ray fluorography sheets illegally obtained from hospitals, cut into discs and embossed with the grooves of bootlegged gramophone records - a kind of medical version of a DJ dub plate. The quality was poor and the discs wore out quickly but the cost was low, just a couple of roubles compared with the fabulous cost of an actual Western LP.

To hear a Bone recording go here

There are many stories to be researched about the people who made these recordings and how or why they did it. Some of them not only bootlegged the discs themselves but also copied the machines that made them in order that the process spread and persisted. They were often people who were fired up with a passion to share music, who risked and sometimes lost their liberty at a time when not only the private copying of music was an offence, but even listening to certain songs could land you in gaol. 

Despite the inevitable imprisonments and clamp downs, the culture of the Bones persisted right up to the mid-sixtes when reel-to-reel tape recorders became common enough for this laborious real time process to no longer be necessary. 


In our time and culture, when a song can be copied and shared with a mouse click, when the mass pirating of music is almost acceptable and when almost nothing is forbidden, it is fascinating and salutary to contemplate an era long before Spotify, before mp3s, before cds and before tapes, when much music was only available "on the bone".