The song is the opening track to the double album Out of the Blue. It was the first song released as a single from the LP. The single reached No. 18 in the United Kingdom charts and spent twelve weeks on the chart. Out of four singles from the album, "Turn to Stone" was the only song not to reach the top ten in the United Kingdom singles charts. The song reached No. 13 in the United States and number one in Canada in early 1978.
The song was composed in Switzerland during Jeff Lynne's two week writing marathon for his double album. Lynne played the Moog bassline of the song.
On 4 November 2008, Lynne was awarded a BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) Million-Air certificate for "Turn to Stone" for having one million airplays.
AllMusic reviewer Zachary Curd called the song "Essentially a love song, "Turn to Stone" is orchestrated, computerized, epic rock music courtesy of Jeff Lynne." The song was also reviewed by Donald A. Guarisco who stated "This dynamic opener from the Out of the Blue album is a good example of Electric Light Orchestra’s skill for mixing string-laden pop hooks with driving rock and roll." He also stated "It also works in an array of swirling string lines that dart in and out of the mix and some dazzling falsetto harmonies that interact with Lynne's lead vocal in call-and-response style".