A friend and I are both similarly shameless man boys, and are equally shameless enough in our arrested emotional and intellectual development to get together once every week to watch old wrestling PPV events from the early 00s, 90s, 80s and – if we’re feeling especially fruity and devil may care in our appreciation of video quality – even the 1970s. After each event – some amazing; some unintentionally hilarious; many, many, many absolutely fucking awful – we look back at the evening’s entertainment, give each match a star rating, hand out our individual awards. And read out the Death List. The Death List is the number of wrestlers and personalities we’d witnessed perform that night at an event forty, thirty. twenty or even just ten years ago who were now no longer with us.
It’s unquestionably a morbid joke, one that never allows us to forget the insanely short expected lifespan of professional wrestlers, particularly those from the steroids n’ cocaine heydays of the so called Golden Era, from the 80s to early 90s. Despite our flippancy, it’s not a completely disrespectful exercise, it’s rarely less than depressing to note how many great talents were lost to us early by being sucked into such a thoughtless and treacherous business. It never allows us to forget that people are killing themselves and being killed just in order to provide us with our shits and giggles. Considering that I’ve only been writing these lists since 2007, and in an era when musicians’ and pop artists’ lifespan is considerably longer than your average professional wrestler, it’s not a trope I’d ever imagined repeating for my Necessary Evil end of year countdown.
Off the top of my head, the only people who have ever made it onto the Necessary Evil list and then later passed away have been Prince (whom I’ve been commemorating ever since); Mark Lanegan (whose last appearance came on The Manics’ 2021 album and whom I’ll be commemorating later on NE22); TV On The Radio‘s bassist Gerald Smith; and the the sad suicide of Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchison (making me really regret how quickly I’d reviewed the band’s final album). A Tribe Called Quest‘s Phife Dawg, Lil Peep, Gil Scott Heron and – perhaps most notably – David Bowie all passed away before they were featured on Necessary Evil. Then of course there’s Kanye, who has suffered countless self inflicted cultural deaths to go along with his five or so NE entries. But even if you count Ye, the total Death Count for all of Necessary Evil ever is about eight. Roughly equal to one WWE event from around 2008. We’ve definitely never had someone die just months after being responsible for the previous year’s best album.
On December 27th 2021, I (correctly) named Low’s album ‘HEY WHAT’ as the year’s greatest. “This is music discovered as a message from undiscovered galaxies, this is what rock music should sound like after fifty fucking years of evolution. Right now, it sounds like nothing else, but also what everything else should sound like. It’s beyond what I previously believed humans to be capable of. It’s the best album of 2021, it’s the best album of this young decade and might not be bettered. It’s up there with the best albums of the 21st century. It’s everything.”. I didn’t know at that time that Mimi Parker – drummer, vocalist, co-founder and member of the band for nearly 30 years – had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2020 and had been receiving dedicated treatment for it throughout 2021. Nobody knew, really – nobody inconsequential anyway – until she revealed her battles on the Sheroes podcast on January 14th 2022 (“A crazy ans surreal two years… Our time can be cut short”). On November 6th, husband and sole other member of Low, Alan Sparhawk, announced that she had died. She was 55 years old.
It’s no exaggeration at at all to say that Low are* one of the most influential American musical acts of the last thirty years. Whether their early records proving that there existed a softer and more beautiful form of guitar music that could convey at least as much emotion as the louder wails of pain of US punk, grunge, nu metal, art rock or Strokes rock (Or the countless other rock genres that Low existed as a counterpoint to and eventually survived), to the absolute mind expending musical journeys of their later records, which I honestly think that we’re yet to truly see the full experience of.
(*were? To debate the band’s status would seem utterly inconsequential at this point)
And they were never truly commercially successful. In almost thirty years (early 2023 will actually mark the band’s thirtieth anniversary), they never even had one random hit song, no Levis advert ever made Starfire a surprise top ten hit, La La Song never got increased radio play after MySpace users strangely all decided it was a perfect song to soundtrack their pages; Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 never thrust Just Make It Stop into prominence by featuring it on their menu screen. Thirty years, and not a single person you will pass on the street could hum a single one of their songs, not a single hook, not a single chorus. But it never mattered. They were always bigger than that. They were always better than that.
The true descendants of the Velvet Underground, in how their commercial success was the polar opposite of their importance and influence. Only, how long were the Velvet Underground a thing? Less than ten years? Try tripling that, you bunch of leathery smackheads! And Low’s continuing Mormon faith was always a million more times controversial and challenging than anything Lou Reed and chums ever did. Your friends and family may not have much of an opinion, but I can guarantee that every worthwhile musician or artist that you love will know and appreciate what an important part of musical history that Mimi Parker and her husband are. The varied tributes paid after her death from artists across the world and from seemingly every genre was some small example of the kind of influence her music always had.
So, yeah, NE2022 is starting soon, but that introduction will be full of my usual dick jokes and worrying displays of mental health, so I wanted to put some time aside to pay tribute to one half of the current Necessary Evil champions, and to unashamedly and sincerely share my affection for Mimi and the beautiful things that she contributed to the world. Keep her name close and sacred. Love is indeed the most important thing*.
(*apart from winning Necessary Evil, but she’s already got that, so…)