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Music / Mr. Big

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From left to right: Eric Martin, Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan, and Pat Torpey

You'd be lookin' groovy, in a sixties movie, maybe tell the press you died...
Little legend baby, try your very best to hide...
A green-tinted sixties mind...
"Green Tinted Sixties Mind"

Take possibly the fastest guitar hero of them all and pair him with the bassist David Lee Roth hired to make Van Halen jealous, then back them with a versatile session drummer and a bluesy singer who looks like Tiffany, and you get 90's pop-rock supergroup Mr. Big, an absurdly gifted crew of musicians who are best known in the mainstream for an acoustic ballad.

It comes with the era.

Mr. Big was the brainchild of Lead Bassist Billy Sheehan and Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney. Seeking a backing band for Sheehan in the wake of his departure from the David Lee Roth band, Varney brought in soul-rock singer Eric Martin and session drummer Pat Torpey to join Sheehan and teenage guitar prodigy Paul Gilbert. Mr. Big's 1989 debut was a critical success, with lead single "Addicted To That Rush" even attracting a bit of radio play, but a market overloaded on pop-metal paid it little mind. In a pattern that would repeat throughout their career, it was huge in Japan. 1991 followup Lean Into It fared far better on the strength of the Power Ballad "Just Take My Heart" and the massive crossover hit "To Be With You", an acoustic singalong smash considered the last hit single of the Hair Metal era. The band embraced the ballads to a greater extent on Bump Ahead, but the Alternative Rock explosion did no favors for their disappointing sales stateside.


Following 1996's Hey Man, Gilbert left the band to record the Power Pop album King Of Clubs (no points guessing who bought that), and the band carried on for some time with onetime Poison guitarist Richie Kotzen in his place. With Sheehan intermittently leaving to tour with former bandmate Steve Vai or record with his new jazz group, the rest of Mr. Big continued songwriting without their leader and eventually ousted him from the band, only to discover that without both Gilbert and Sheehan, they were a much smaller draw even in Japan. A farewell tour (with Sheehan returned) seemed to be the end of the line, but fan outcry brought a reunion of the old lineup and 2011 even brought a new album, What If..., appropriately featuring a flying pig on the cover. Fittingly, American bookers would have nothing to do with the supporting tour, yet they sold out the Budokan without issue.


Two more albums followed, ...The Stories We Could Tell in 2014 and Defying Gravity in 2017. In 2015 it was revealed Torpey had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. While he was still credited with drums on Stories he had actually worked with a drum programmer for the record. On subsequent tours Matt Starr (of Burning Rain) stepped in as the main drummer for the band while Torpey played on a couple of songs at each show and contributed backing vocals and some percussion to others. For Gravity Starr played all the drum parts while Torpey acted as "drum producer" for the album.

In February 2018 Torpey passed away from complications from his illness. Starr has continued to tour with the band as their drummer since.

Studio Discography:

  • Mr. Big (1989)
  • Lean Into It (1991)
  • Bump Ahead (1993)
  • Hey Man (1996)
  • Get Over It (2000)
  • Actual Size (2001)
  • What If... (2011)
  • ...The Stories We Could Tell (2014)
  • Defying Gravity (2017)

Ain't no sense in runnin', they're addicted to these tropes!

  • Badass Beard: Gilbert generally has a full beard these days and Starr rocks a variation of the imperial style.
  • Bald of Awesome: Just Starr, all the other band members still have a full head of hair.
  • Blues Rock: Mr. Big's cover of Mr. Big didn't stray from the original's style, pushing them into blues territory for one song.
  • Decade-Themed Filter: The backstory of the song "Green Tinted Sixties Mind". The liner notes of the album "Lean Into It" suggest the inspiration for the song was, "Did you ever notice how old movies from the sixties have sort of a green tint to them? Strange but true."
  • Hair Metal: Their early work has shades of this, though they tended more a mixture of Soft and Hard Rock later in their career.
  • Lead Bassist: Sheehan, types A and C
  • New Sound Album: Hey Man saw them try to evolve with the grunge and Alternative Metal trends, featuring moodier melodies and less bombastic production. It earned them a very minor hit with "Take Cover."
  • Ode to Youth: "Blame It On My Youth"
  • Power Ballad: They've done quite a few, enough for a whole compilation, 2000's Deep Cuts: The Best of the Ballads. "To Be With You" is obviously the most famous example, though the band say it's more like a "campfire song."
  • Shout-Out: "Green Tinted Sixties Mind" name checks Janis Joplin.
  • Stylistic Suck: Talented musicians all, but reggae is not their forte.
  • This Is a Drill: Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy features a recurring riff played with electric drills; it's since been subtitled The Electric Drill Song.


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