The History of the Flexi-Disc

Flexipop!’s Shameless Pop Legacy

Beginning – as he did – as the co-inventor and owner of short lived (1980-1982) pop magazine Flexipop! (exclamation marks were very important then – see Wham or Wham!), writer Tim Lott straddles our collision of flexi-disc and literature like some kind of colossus. This is his account of how he did it.

Soviet Jazz – Sentimental Songs on X-Ray

We like this one because it tells the history of the Soviet Flexi-Disc as a Samizdat (“self-published”) activity. Samizdat was a term – originally coined as a pun by Russian poet Nikolai Glaznov in the 1940s – to describe a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet Bloc where individuals sought to reproduce censored documents by hand in order to pass them from reader to reader.

Aside from Magnitiizdat (the passing on of taped sound recordings) and Tamizdat (literature published abroad and smuggled in and passed on), there was also Roentgenizdat – a portmanteau-word made from roenten ray (“X-Ray”) izdat (“publishing house”) and known colloquially as ‘bones’ or ‘ribs’). These were essentially flexi-discs made from discarded medical x-rays, a cheap, reliable source of suitable raw material. Roentgenizdat provided an underground medium for the distribution of jazz music, which – post-World War II – had been banned. Such bones or ribs were produced from the late 1940s to the early Sixties, often by members of the Stilyagi who were a Soviet youth subculture (the appelation Stilyagi variously translated in English as ‘style hunter’ or ‘dandy’ or ‘beatnik’ or ‘hipster’ but actually used pejoratively in a Soviet Union due to their “open admiration of modern, especially American, Capitalistic lifestyles”.

See also here and here and here to find out more about roentgenizdat.

Hip Pocket Records

A rather masterful history of the flexi-disc from Stylus magazine that introduces us to the story of flexi-discs in the West. From their beginnings with Philco (the electronics arm of the Ford Motor Company) and their invention of Hip Pocket Records, mass-marketed flexi-discs of top forty hits to the more intellectual aspirations of Aspen (touted as “the world’s first three dimensional magazine”) which featured contributions from the likes of Roland Barthes, Marshall McLuhan and Andy Warhol.