72: Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?

Prince (1979)
Please spare a thought for Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Its title could be questioning a cruel lover or it could be directed towards the song constantly stealing its thunder. I Wanna Be Your Lover was Prince’s first big hit and reached number 11 in the hot 100 – a feat Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? had to directly follow and couldn’t get close. It never even charted. In Germany they shared the same single but guess which track got the A-side? On American Bandstand, Prince’s debut TV recording, he performed both songs but while I Wanna Be Your Lover was the triumphant introduction, Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? had to come on and pick up the pieces after The Awkwardness. And despite being track 2 it’s not even the first on his sophomore album to have the word ‘wanna’ in its title. No prizes for guessing who got there first. So what did our attention-starved protagonist do? The same as any sibling living in the shadow of a golden child. It carved out its own niche. Unable to compete in pop terms, it picked up a guitar and for the song’s final minute bared its soul with an exquisite shredded tapestry of rage borne from a lifetime of humiliation, frustration and rejection. This dark inner sea was often glimpsed on the Dirty Mind tour where the solo was launched by the screamed word “bitch!”, a momentary escape of steam from a boiling ocean, before Prince directed it towards a turbine of exulting rock and roll. Now the track could shine without its nemesis blocking out the light. Dead words lay on the ground like discarded shells but their animating spirit was woven into a message more authentic than any rhyming couplet could muster. By ditching the vocals Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? finally found its voice.