When I was growing up, Easter Sunday was often spent in a packed, SRO church with the promise of hunting down hidden Easter baskets afterwards used as leverage to keep all five of us sitting still in the pew with our hands to ourselves(!) On the mornings that we all went to church together, we usually sat in the same spot; taking up almost half the row. It wasn’t like there was reserved seating, it’s just where the Collins’ always sat: behind the Mills, across from the McNeely’s, in front of the Brunettes and next to the Mackos—on the Lyndhurst side of the church, definitely not the Mayfield Heights side. On Christmas and Easter this order was likely to get tossed out the (stained glass) window. The swollen congregation, made it every family for themselves. If we weren’t all dressed and out the door by a certain time so we could navigate the chaotic parking lot by a certain time so we could claim our usual seats by a certain time, we could find ourselves sitting—or worse, standing—as far back as the seventh station of the cross. And that did not bode well for the five of us sitting or standing still and keeping our hands to ourselves(!) I know why, but I honestly don’t know how my parents conducted this exhausting operation with us for so many years.
As a kid I was a sucker for epic religious movies like Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Ten Commandments, The Robe, King of Kings, and Barabbas. So even when the Easter service felt interminably long, the drama of the story was cinematically familiar and always kept me captivated—even if I may have been focused on the wrong thing. For me, Easter was all about the rock and the roll. I’m referring to the huge boulder that was used to seal the tomb where Jesus was buried. I was always intrigued by what felt like an unnecessary bit of showmanship. That stone didn't need to be moved for anyone to get out, it was rolled away so others could get in. How else could they find an empty tomb posing the question only faith can answer: "what happened here?"
Switching gears theologically, but not thematically, "Roll Away the Stone" is one of my favorite songs by glam rockers, Mott the Hoople. It peaked at No.8 in November 1973, and although it has nothing to do with religion, it was the crowning glory of Mott The Hoople’s short-lived era of commercial success; highlighted by two back-to-back masterpieces: Mott and The Hoople. It was also guitarist Mick Ralph’s final contribution to the band before splitting to form Bad Company with Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke and Boz Burrell. Ian Hunter kept the band rolling a little while longer with some help from Mick Ronson, but even David Bowie’s former guitarist couldn’t bring back the spark. Mott the Hoople called it quits in 1974, and “Roll Away the Stone” was essentially their last Top Ten hit.
In 2000, a North London band named Velocette—after a British motorcycle company—contributed their rendition of “Roll Away the Stone” to a compilation called Blockbuster: A Glitter Glam Rock Experience. It’s a slower, more subdued recording without the honking sax, squealing guitar and 50’s-style backing vocals of the original, but I think Sarah Bleach's ethereal vocals make it perfect for a rainy Easter Sunday night and the Happy Medium Song of the Day. Listen to the cover — check out the original! (Please use the comments box below to share your thoughts.)