In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about songs we loved from our first favorite bands.

Juice Newton, “Angel Of The Morning” (1981)

Although I didn’t really develop my own musical tastes until I was about 12 or 13, when I was better equipped to annoy my parents with a Paula Abdul obsession, I still had a few musical loves as a kid. The first one I remember being really into was Juice Newton: My dad had bought her 1981 album, Juice, and I loved Newton’s flowing red hair on the LP’s cover, and I loved to stand up on the fireplace hearth and dance around to the album’s hits like “Queen Of Hearts.” That at least makes sense—a 4- or 5-year-old doesn’t have much musical sensibility, but she can at least recognize a danceable tune when she hears one. More confounding was my love of “Angel Of The Morning,” a power ballad that I thankfully couldn’t have known the meaning of at the time.

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The author, on the right, dancing to Juice Newton ca. 1982

The song, which was originally recorded in 1968 by Merrilee Rush, whose version was used on the soundtrack of Girl, Interrupted—starring Angelina Jolie, the niece of the song’s writer, Chip Taylor—insinuates an illicit love affair. Rush’s version doesn’t have the lush backing orchestral sounds of Newton’s, something I imagine appealed to me a lot as a little kid who didn’t yet have any sort of musical vocabulary, but just loved the drama of it. But just through its melody, the song expresses longing and even a sense of triumph—triumph over what I now know as the cultural shaming of one-night stands and extramarital affairs, but what I presumably only then recognized as sheer joy. Besides, it’s still a great song for getting up on the fireplace hearth and working out some interpretive dance moves.

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