X-Ray Audio pop up at Soho Radio


I recently took part in a radio show hosted by Stephen Coates (aka The Real Tuesday Weld) and his co-conspirator in X-Ray Audio Project, Paul Heartfield for Soho Radio. The pair are doing a takeover for two weeks with a series of themed radio shows and a small exhibition in the front of the station. (photos by Hannah Brown)


The show I took part in was about flexi discs and we were joined by Barry Cain, the original publisher of anarchic early 80s Flexipop magazine. Other episodes on X-Ray discs, self-made records, bootlegs and a live performance & x-ray cut are also archived on the soho radio site.

I mention the Flexibition during the program so here’s a handy link to all the entries if you’re wondering what it is and want to have a look & listen.

Flexibition 2017: Stephen Coates #4 – Echo magazine No.2

Echo 2 cover
From the collection of Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld, Antique Beat, X-Ray Audio), Issue 2 of Echo (“the magazine you play on your phonograph”) arrived in October 1959 containing five off-white, semi transparent flexi discs with features on Steve Allen, Queen Elizabeth‘s Royal Tour, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, the Ahmad Jamal Trio and Le Mans 1959. Art director Tony Palladino did some lovely work in this issue using very modern type treatments, cropped photos and lots of blank space to give it quite a timeless feel.
Echo #2 contents Echo #2 royal tour flexiEcho #2 DH LawrenceEcho #2 Publisher note Echo #2 jazz Echo #2 Riverside recordsEcho #2 flexi stamp Echo #2 Monk stamp2Echo #2 Le MansEcho #2 subscribe2Echo #2 advert2Echo #2 back
Issue 1 was featured a few days back and if you missed a look at issue 3. back in my original Flexibition posts then look no further. To my knowledge Echo lasted for four issues before folding, a potted history of which can be found on Boing Boing by John Wilcock.


Flexibition 2017: Stephen Coates #3 – French flexi disc magazines

Theatrorama cover
The French, it seems, went gaga for flexi disc magazines in the late 50s as these four examples from Stephen Coates‘ collection illustrate. The 7″x 7.5″ ring bound format, similar to the American Echo magazines and their own long-running Sonorama seems to have been a winner although there are less pages in these examples which lean towards more specialist subjects. Occasionally included as a supplement with the main magazine, Theatrorama showcased extracts from plays across no less than nine discs and made it to at least a third issue in 1959.Theatrorama flexi 2 Theatrorama indexTheatrorama flexi
Cuisinorama (can you spot a theme emerging here?) followed the same format in the same year with five discs, a full colour cover as well as colour pages inside, concentrating on recipes, restaurants and food prep. You can see more examples of ‘orama’ spin-off publications on this excellent Made In Vinyl page including many of the issues featured here, Echo and the previously featured Soviet magazine, Krugazor.Cuisinorama cover Cuisinorama flexi 1 Cuisinorama flexi 2Cuisinorama back
‘Sound magazine of medical information’ Medicophone, issue seven from 1961. I’ve found evidence of up to 26 issues of this, all with the same cover. This one came with five discs covering such fascinating subjects as the heart and hernias.Medicophone coverMedicophone flexi 1Medicophone insideMedicophone flexi 2
In The Beginning There Was Rhythm, ‘strictly reserved for the medical corps(this is stamped no. 0131 inside) concentrates on jazz and seems to be a freebie produced or sponsored by Vegetaline, a coconut-based lard.

ITBTWRhythm cover ITBTWRhythm flexi 1 ITBTWRhythm flexi 2

Flexibition 2017: Stephen Coates #2 – Echo magazine No.1

Echo #1 cover
Again from the collection of Stephen Coates (The Real Tuesday Weld, Antique Beat, X-Ray Audio), Echo magazine no.1 (“a magazine of sight and sound”) debuted in 1959 with five two-colour, card-backed flexi discs featuring Mike Nichols & Elaine May, Fred Astaire, Larry Alder, ‘Gypsy’ and Alexander King on the Human Dilemma. Art directed by Cynthia Pennell, the issue has an almost medieval look from the choice of fonts with a more ‘jazz’ feel to the discs which include the red and gold of the cover – sadly lacking in later issues, of which no.2 will be featured here soon.

Echo #1 Publisher noteEcho #1 Fashion flexiEcho #1 Intro offerEcho #1 red flexi Echo #1 Fred AstaireEcho #1 Alder flexi Echo #1 EntertreneurEcho #1 Avant GardeEcho #1 King Flexi Echo #1 Needle hereEcho #1 back

Flexibition 2017: Stephen Coates #1- Postcard records

Atomium postcard 2
Stephen Coates – he of The Real Tuesday Weld, Antique Beat and the X-Ray Audio project amongst other things – gamely lent me part of his collection of flexi discs and postcard records late last year with the express purpose of me showcasing them on the blog. So here we have the first of several posts highlighting some of the treasures he’s found over the years.
Some of these were on show at the Horse Hospital in 2015 when the X-Ray Audio book debuted but have been hidden since. I especially coveted the nearly 6″ in diameter Atomium postcard above when I spied it back then and inspecting it now I see that it seems to be an idealised painting or possibly a hand-tinted photo with part of the background erased as similar photographs don’t quite match this viewpoint. The song, ‘Marche Atomium’ by M. Leemans, is a swinging brass type number which sadly doesn’t mirror the futuristic architecture it plays over.

Atomium postcardback

The tiny, beautiful but fairly unremarkable postcard below takes on a new importance when you turn it over to discover that the Beach Boys ‘Help Me Rhonda’ is etched into the front image. Or ‘Help Me Rondoo’ as it’s spelt here. It measures 12cm x 10cm and, despite sounding like you’re listening to the song through a sandstorm, you can easily make out the pop classic, possibly a live version to boot which has very odd soft and loud parts near the end.

Beach boys card frontBeach boys card back

The 19cm x 16cm postcard below is the Polish singer Maryla Rodowicz as a young woman, and the song pressed across her face was the one that made her famous, ‘Malgoska’.

Maryla Rodowicz frontMaryla Rodowicz back

US Marines were allowed to record messages home for their loved ones and discs came with a pre-printed design as well as an envelope that broadcast the contents for the postman and recipients. This one is unused, approx 6.5 inches across and has a second hole stamped in the center label, presumably to steady the disc when it was being cut. The darker ring over the illustrations is a thick, shiny layer where the grooves would have been cut. The cartoons make war out to be a fairly light-hearted affair.

US Marine letter record

US Marine letter

The Diskery, Birmingham

Diskery outside
Last weekend I played at The Dark Horse in Moseley, Birmingham and a fine gig it was too. The day after, Thomas, the promoter, and DJ Cro took me to The Diskery, supposedly the oldest record shop in the UK. It’s the kind you only run across occasionally these days, seemingly held together by the records pinned to every surface. Stuck in a time warp, a perfectly preserved example of your classic secondhand record shop of old, despite the Record Store Day banner in the window. There were so many records in every nook and cranny, on several floors, that I barely scratched the surface whilst I was there. We were offered tea almost immediately on entry and the two hours I had before my train yielded some great 45s, some of which are below. Definitely one of my favourite record shops in the UK and I want to go back and spend the whole day in there…

Diskery est1952 Diskery ceilingDiskery insideDiskery shelvesDiskery dolls Diskery stickersDiskery FCJuddDiskery Action Man Diskery happytime Diskery Huegel Paris Diskery JingleDiskery ListenMoveDanceDiskery Rhythm Diskery SparkyDiskery 3 blind mice
More about this flexi disc in a future post…

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Flexibition 2016: Krugozor magazine

Running for nearly 30 years between 1964 and 1993, Krugozor was a monthly magazine focusing on ‘documentary, history, classical and contemporary art, literature and music (including music from western countries)’. Immensely popular with the Soviet youth, each issue would contain up to six 33rpm, double-sided flexi discs bound into the 7″-sized magazine. A spindle hole punched through the centre and ring-bound pages enabled the consumer to fold the pages underneath each flexi and place the whole magazine on the turntable so that the discs could be played.
A recent trip to Moscow yielded many of these, bought mainly for the covers as my Russian isn’t so great but finding them in good condition after all these years isn’t so easy. The bindings are brittle and easily break, the paper is thin and tears and some of the discs are sometimes neatly cut out. There’s an amazing archive of the covers, ordered by year online here, it looks like there should be pdf scans of the issues too but it’s all in Russian and hard to decipher.
Krugazor2 Krugazor3 Krugazor4 Krugazor4back Krugazor4insideback Krugazor5 Krugazor6 Krugazor7 Krugazor8 Krugazor9

DJ Food Russian excursion


I’ve been so busy of late I’ve not had the time to update the blog. Last weekend I traveled to Russia for a couple of gigs and visited a huge basement record shop in Moscow called Sound Barrier. It was so huge and stuffed with records that I was overwhelmed after two hours in there although that could have been from the heating blasting out and the crazy high prices on the records.

SBoutsideSB5 SB4

Whenever I travel I try to buy local records from where I am and luckily the Russian discs I bought were cheap. I found many issues of Krugazor, the 7″-sized magazine with several flexi discs in each issue and some beautiful covers. I’ll feature them more in a separate Flexibition post but here are some shots of the shop and some other finds. SBKrug3 SBKrug2 SBKrug1 SBAlice SB3 SB2 SBGroupo SB1 SBOrg SBcorridor

Flexi discs everywhere including the Quietus

The second of John Doran‘s ‘Vinyl Staircasepieces went up Monday on The Quietus. The first one was a riot and this treads a similar path plus it includes a little interview with yours truly on the subject of flexi discs.
On Saturday I visited the opening of the X-Ray Audio exhibition at the Horse Hospital in London for the launch of Stephen Coates‘ book of the same name and a series of events related to the subject of Soviet ‘Bone Music’.

X-Ray AudioBookcover

One of these events will be my own ‘A Night At The Flexibition‘ event this Saturday the 5th of December where I’ll be chatting to Stephen about various discs from my collection (some pictured above for the Quietus piece). We’ll be playing selections and talking to Alex, the engineer who cuts audio onto X-Rays for Stephen in performances. It should be very informal and there will be a small quantity of random flexi discs free to the first 20 or so people through the door, pulled from my own stash. The X-Ray Audio exhibition will be viewable so you can kill two birds with one stone and maybe even pick up early copies of the excellent book with free facsimile flexi while they last.

X-Ray AudioBookFlexi

X-Ray Audio3 X-Ray Audio1X-Ray Audio2 X-Ray Audio4X-Ray Audio5X-Ray Audio6 X-Ray Audio7

X-Ray Audio & The Flexibition at the Horse Hospital

Above is the flexi disc that comes free with the limited edition version of Stephen Coates‘ new book on Soviet Bone Music, ‘X-Ray Audio’. The book and exhibition launches this Saturday at the Horse Hospital in London showing discs, films and images that tell the story of how these strange artifacts came to be.

On Dec 5th at the same venue I’ll be in conversation with Stephen showcasing some of my flexi disc collection, playing selections and telling the stories behind them. First through the door will get a random flexi and Stephen will also bring some of his Soviet 78rpm discs too no doubt.

Flexibition flyer web

Sunday digs: 7″s and obsolete formats

Pelham front
Obsolete formats: I have no way to play these first few items and already own them in several other forms but I couldn’t resist picking these up today.
The ‘…Pelham 123’ release is a Video disc in a huge plastic ‘cartridge’, bigger than an LP, I originally thought this was the same as the Laser disc system but it seems it’s an earlier, failed format that was read with a physical needle rather than a laser! – more info here.
I was amazed that the Derek & Clive release was even on 8-Track – this one almost as dirty as the audio it contains. The Curtis Mayfield cart is just a beautiful object.

Pelham backD&C8trackfront D&C8trackback SweetExhorcistfront
This is Toolshed‘s first ever release from 15 years ago, a 2 track 7″ in a ziplock bag with screen-printed, folded card cover. Toolshed is Graham Massey‘s occasional all-star experimental supergroup featuring the likes of Paddy Steer, Seaming To and many more.
‘Punk Funk’ was my favourite track from The Brotherhood‘s Elementalz album back in the mid 90s and I never even knew this existed on 7″. With a great heavy remix by 12 Rounds (who included Atticus Ross among their members) exclusive to this format it’s probably my favourite find of the day. This particular version is not on YouTube so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Finally found this Psychedelic Furs 7″ with a flexi stuck to the cover, play the sleeve as well as the 45 inside!
This Jona Lewie single is actually only 6″s in size and includes a funny little disclaimer about the realities of automatic turntables trying to play it. Stiff Records up to their old tricks again, strange that they should do a 6″ and a 7″? This one was bought purely for its odd format and joins the tiny ranks of my irregular-sized vinyl collection.

JonaLewiewarning JonaLewie6inch

‘The Search Engine’ limited book/CD & flexi disc

Limited comic-sized 48 pg booklet / CD / flexi disc version of the DJ Food album ‘The Search Engine’. Available to pre-order at the Ninjashop for just £12 for a limited time.

The booklet features artwork by Henry Flint and Openmind, photography by Will Cooper-Mitchell, lyrics and more, the flexi disc will only be available with this package.

DJ Food flexi disc

Yes I can hardly believe it myself, I’ve wanted to have a flexi disc with my music on it for as long as I can remember and today they arrived. The fact that the last major manufacturer of flexis shut up shop in 2001 didn’t deter me from looking all these years and I finally found someone who had restarted the process late last year. David Read over at Vinyl Record Guru in Nanaimo, Canada is the man to speak to and they do a wide range of coloured inks, several different disc colours and both 33 and 45 rpm.

This little beauty will (somehow) be given away with a limited CD of my album sold via the Ninja Tune online shop later this year. More details when I have them (and better pictures too!) I’ve been planning to showcase my flexi disc collection for a while so I might do one a week starting next year in a ‘Flexi-stentialism’ section.


Posted in DJ Food, Flexi Discs, Music. | 7 Comments |