Is there any other artist or band out there that can produce number one hits, one after the other, like Alabama did in their heyday?
It was a pretty impressive run for the southern country rock group in the 1980s. From 1980 all the way to 1987, Alabama had 21 consecutive number one singles on the country charts. “Love in the First Degree” was the fifth in that incredible stretch.
On this date in 1981, Alabama released “Love in the First Degree” as the third single from their album Feels So Right. The love ballad immediately connected with country music fans, and actually had a good amount of crossover appeal.
The “criminal lingo” love song ended up being Alabama’s biggest crossover hit, reaching as high as the 15th spot on the Billboard Hot 100 the year after it was released. One could make an argument that it’s still one of their most recognizable songs to date.
With the name of the song, you can probably already guess that it utilizes and leans on the metaphor of love being a crime. You might think that’s a little weird, and that’s okay, but Alabama doesn’t care. It’s a banger, and as strange as the concept might be, it resonated with a lot of music fans.
Seeing the lyrics written out help to understand the “idea” of the song, which is that love is a crime and the narrator is admitting that they are guilty “in the first degree” of love:
“I once thought of love as a prison A place I didn’t want to be But long ago I made a decision To be footloose and fancy free…
Baby, you left me defenseless I’ve only got one plea Lock me away inside of your love And throw away the key I’m guilty of love in the first degree”
For all of those people who aren’t as savvy on criminal law, first degree is the highest and most serious category of crimes. That is how serious the narrator of the song is about love.
You can listen to the smash hit from Alabama below: