David Bowie released Ashes to Ashes on vinyl in 1980. Though the Thin White Duke was ahead of his time, even he couldn’t have foreseen how prophetic the release was… a radical way of treasuring departed loved ones is proof of this.
Should someone be musically inclined, or just want to be remembered in style, then there’s a quirky option which ensures their remains are not only seen but heard.
If you have the money you can press your ashes into a vinyl record, at the rate of a teaspoonful per disc. The company providing this offbeat service is And Vinyly. It was formed in the Noughties by music producer Jason Leach from Scarborough, England.
Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust Tour from 1972–73. Photo by Rik Walton CC BY-SA 2.0
A combination of family accidents involving “cremains”, a sense of his own advancing years (he’s middle-aged) and his mother working in a funeral home helped Leach come to the conclusion that vinyl was the answer.
“It was not intended to be a business,” he told the BBC in 2017. “It was the result of having a bit of fun with what at the time felt like a shocking and disconcerting inevitability.”
As the name suggests, And Vinyly takes a light-hearted approach to the Grim Reaper. Their slogan is “Live on from beyond the groove!”
Back in 2010, Wired described the business of manufacturing the discs, which “involves a very understanding pressing plant.”
The remains “must be sprinkled onto the raw piece of vinyl (known as a ‘biscuit’ or ‘puck’) before it is pressed by the plates. This means that when the plates exert their pressure on the vinyl in order to create the grooves, the ashes are pressed into the record.”
It isn’t a flawless procedure and the ashes can make their presence felt on the recording as the needle moves over them. But for Leach it’s all part of the magic. He said in his BBC interview “There will, of course, be some extra pops and crackles resulting from the inclusion of ashes — but we like these, as this is you.”
The content of the 7 – 12-inch can range from the standard greatest hits, specially-composed tracks, audio of the deceased person’s voice, or even just plain silence so families can really hear their loved ones crackle!
Like any kind of end of life arrangement, the price tag isn’t cheap. The minimum cost is £900 ($1,160) and with luxury features such as RIV artwork, the price can rise to around £3,500 (about $4,600).
What is RIV artwork? It stands for “Rest In Vinyl” and involves having a portrait of the formerly-breathing client painted by James Hague of the National Portrait Gallery. The ashes are blended with the paint so it becomes a rendering of the subject in every sense.
Should a customer wish to remember their pet as a vinyl treasure, the company are agreeable to that also.
Mental Floss wrote that Leach had found “a major untapped market in people who aren’t content with standard afterlife traditions.” This extends beyond vinyl grooves and into all manner of commemorative areas.
Ashes can be turned into other desirable items, such as diamonds, or pottery. Gone are the days when remains would be scattered across the ocean with a prayer against windy weather.
Businesses like And Vinyly are breaking from the norm to create a loving tribute that could last forever. For Leach, a key part of the enterprise is a legacy.
“This is about as close to time travel as I’m going to get,” he said to the BBC. By hitting the turntable every now and then, the producer can make his presence felt down the generations. For him, that’s the very definition of groovy.