#27 Mott The Hoople – Roll Away The Stone (1973)
If certain records are all to do with size – plumped-up sound, dimensions flaunted – then it’s also important to confer with context. The early to mid-seventies, and Britain contracted a perceptible case of the weirds – political and social uncertainly, an inertia that settled across notions of national identity, a subsequent echoing of mood in the variety of vinyl that shifted units.
The entire decade was characterized by a homogeny of music purchasers averse to anything even remotely unsafe, thus ensuring mediocre and passionless MOR pap would sell in significant numbers right into the eighties. But alongside this, a parallel vogue for androgynous affectation developed, music a little unsure of what it stood for, music that felt obliged to cover its tracks with prominent bass lines, with blousy arrangements, with production techniques that ballooned the sound outward. The resultant hit singles – glam rock in its widest context – were big in execution but irrevocably lacking something at the core, as if music was always going to mirror society’s mid-life crisis, or that fact that Bolan had blown his credibility, Bowie was beginning to lose it, and Roxy Music’s stint as arguably the most important band on the planet was about hit the buffers the instant Brian Eno walked (Roxy + Eno = sublime. Roxy without Eno = a crass irrelevance. Discuss).
So yeah, ‘Roll Away The Stone’. Even Mott The Hoople weren’t immune to this pre-millennial tension arriving twenty-five years too soon. An R&B band that had misplaced its mojo, they only persevered due to Bowie’s patronage and ‘All The Young Dudes’. And then in ’73 they released this: glam-rocked, ballooned production, big. But also warmly engaging, not afraid to mould itself around prevalent aesthetics. I’ve always loved the backing vocals on this; cheeky, cheesy, a sort of suburban sexiness that backstops Ian Hunter’s gravelly, straining vox. And yes, the lead guitar is an exemplification of pomposity that I’d usually be quick to avoid, but in this specific context it works, adding to the fact that this is a record that’s very much a product of its time, but unlike so many of its contemporaries, isn’t a museum piece.
Mott The Hoople / Roll Away The Stone