Roll Away The Stone

Album: The Hoople (1973)
Charted: 8

Songfacts®:

  • The biggest hit for Mott The Hoople since "All The Young Dudes" this '50s-flavored tune rolled all the way to #8 in the UK. "The song was originally written for the Mott album," vocalist Ian Hunter recalled to Classic Rock magazine. "The piano I had was an upright that cost me 30 bob, and I'd slammed all the white keys out. So I made myself learn how to play the black ones, which was great because I didn't understand what I was doing. I knew where I was going with the white ones, but it's better firing away somewhere you don't know. I wrote All The Way From Memphis, Roll Away The Stone and something else all in sharps and flats."
  • The song featured backing vocals from female trio Thunderthighs, who consisted of Karen Friedman, Dari Lalou and Casey Synge, They'd provided the backing vocals to Lou Reed's hit single, "Walk On The Wild Side" the previous year and later recorded their own hit single "Central Park Arrest", which reached #30 in the UK Singles Chart in 1974.
  • The original single version was one of the last tracks cut with guitarist Mick Ralphs prior to his departure to form Bad Company. A number of reviewers commented on the main riff's resemblance to The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Said Mick Ralphs: "Any similarity to anything else was purely accidental. I just played the song as I felt it. Like anything I've recorded or played on, I just got into the feel and mood of the song. I never plan or work anything out, although I did have to come up with the guitar hook in the intro, as I did with 'All The Young Dudes.' Ian had started to write in a certain commercial way, and we both thought that a good guitar hook was important for Roll Away The Stone."
  • The song was re-cut with new guitarist Luther "Ariel Bender" Grosvenor for inclusion on the The Hoople album, with singer Lindsey De Paul replacing one of the Thunderthighs for the spoken-word section midway through. (De Paul had written "Central Park Arrest" for the all-girl threesome).
  • It was De Paul who gave Grosvenor his new moniker. "The band and I were in Frankfurt, doing five days of television together," she recalled. "And we were all staying in a small hotel. There was only one room with a sink, and the proprietor was reluctant to let me have it, which meant we all had to share a bathroom. Luther went outside and bent the aerial on the manager's car, which changed his mind. I ended up calling Luther 'Ariel Bender' for the rest of the week. Then when we got home he changed his name by deed poll."

Comments: 2

  • Bob from Erie, PaBowie does a great version of this on his David Live album, with an incredible band of session players including Earl Slick on guitar, Herbie Flowers on bass, David Sanborn on sax, and Michael Kamen on keyboards, among others.
  • Bob from Erie, PaPerhaps the biggest note about this song is that it was written by David Bowie. Bowie was a big Mott fan. He originally offered them Suffragette City, which they turned down. Then he offered to produce their album, which they also turned down. Ultimately, Bowie gave him All the Young Dudes, which became arguably their biggest hit.
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