Mr. Big (American band)
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Past members||Pat Torpey|
Mr. Big is an American glam metal band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1988. The band was originally composed of Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar, backing vocals), Billy Sheehan (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Pat Torpey (drums, percussion, backing vocals). Though primarily a metal band, they are most known for scoring softer hits. Their songs are often marked by strong vocals and vocal harmonies. Their hits include "To Be with You" (a number-one single in 15 countries in 1992) and "Just Take My Heart". The band takes its name from a song by Free, which it covered on the 1993 album Bump Ahead.
Mr. Big remained active and popular for over a decade despite internal conflicts and changing music trends, releasing four studio albums: Mr. Big (1989), Lean into It (1991), Bump Ahead (1993) and Hey Man (1996). Guitarist Paul Gilbert departed the band in 1999, and Richie Kotzen was brought as a guitarist and vocalist. The band released two more albums with this line-up: Get Over It (1999) and Actual Size (2001). Mr. Big broke up in 2002.
Following requests from fans, Mr. Big reunited with its original line-up in 2009. The band's first post-reunion tour was in Japan. In 2010, Mr. Big released its first album in 15 years with the same line-up: What If.... During the recording of the follow-up album ...The Stories We Could Tell (2014), Pat Torpey was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and participated only marginally as a touring support. The band's ninth album, Defying Gravity (2017), was its last record involving Torpey as drum producer; he died the following year. Not wanting to continue without Torpey, the band intended to release a final studio album, conduct a farewell tour and disband. However, since then they have been on hiatus, they still exist as musical entity, but with no concrete plans to continue with a different drummer and haven't discussed their future, as affirmed by Billy Sheehan.
Mr. Big is frequently cited as an example of the "Big in Japan" phenomenon, where a musical act is disproportionately more popular in Japan compared to similar groups. Some consider Mr. Big as one-hit wonder for "To Be with You", but they maintained consistent popularity in the Japanese market for years.
Formation and debut album (1988–1990)
After bass player Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth's backing band in 1988, he began piecing together a new band with the help of Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, a label specialized in the shredding genre. He recruited Eric Martin, of the rock-oriented Eric Martin Band and also soul-leaning solo artist, and soon thereafter added guitarist Gilbert and drummer Torpey. Gilbert was already a well-respected guitarist who had released two albums with his Los Angeles-based band Racer X. Torpey came to California from Arizona, and had previously recorded and toured with a number of high-profile artists, including Impellitteri, Stan Bush, Marilyn Martin, Belinda Carlisle, Ted Nugent, The Knack, and Jeff Paris (who would later collaborate with Mr. Big in a songwriting capacity).
The newly formed band hired Herbie Herbert, the former manager of Journey, Europe, and Santana, to be their manager. By 1989, they signed with Atlantic Records and released their self-titled debut the same year. The record did not gain the band a mainstream rock audience stateside, but was a success in Japan.
In June 1990, the group toured America as an opening act on Rush's Presto Tour. In August 1990, two songs, "Strike Like Lightning" and "Shadows", performed by Mr. Big, were exclusively released on the soundtrack album of the action film Navy SEALs.
Breakthrough and height of fame (1991–1997)
Mr. Big's second album, 1991's Lean Into It, was a major commercial breakthrough, especially two ballads, "To Be with You" (which went to number one in fifteen countries) and "Just Take My Heart", as well as the song "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind". The cover features a picture of the train in the Montparnasse derailment. They toured the UK in April and May 1991, and again in 1992, releasing a live album, Mr. Big Live, in 1992. For three nights, they opened for Aerosmith at London's Wembley Arena.
In 1993, another ballad, a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" (from their third album, Bump Ahead), peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it is said that the band also contributed music to the soundtrack for the Sega Mega-CD release of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, the songs actually featured Eric Martin with musicians hired by Sega.
The band released Hey Man in 1996. The song "Take Cover" was included on the soundtrack to the cartoon series Mega Man. Although the band never replicated its earlier success in the US market, their popularity continued to soar in Japan and in much of Asia. They continued to sell out tours in the Asian market, resulting in a number of live releases for the Japanese market. They are one of the more notable examples of the "Big in Japan" phenomenon. Live At Budokan was one of those live releases intended for the Japanese market only. By the time that album appeared, the group had been put on ice, as the individual band members became more engrossed in other projects; the band temporarily broke up in 1997.
Line-up change and break-up (1999–2002)
Gilbert left the band in 1999, and eventually reformed Racer X. Richie Kotzen, another Shrapnel artist and former guitarist for Poison, was brought in as a guitar player. Two studio albums were released by this lineup: Get Over It in 1999, and Actual Size in 2001. Get Over It was released on September 1999 in Japan, and yielded the single "Superfantastic," to a lukewarm audience response. Mr. Big performed a 20-date tour of Japan, followed by a New Year's Eve 1999 show with Aerosmith at the Osaka Dome, in Osaka, Japan. Get Over It was released in the US in March 2000, followed by a short club stint at "Roxy", California. Several music videos for songs on Get Over It were recorded (for "Electrified" and "Superfantastic"), however the director claimed rights to the music videos and they were never released. In 2001, Mr. Big released Actual Size in Asia. The CD sat on the charts in the number three spot and "Shine", the first single, went to number one. The song was also used as the ending theme for the anime series Hellsing.
However, tension had developed between Sheehan and the other members when Sheehan began touring with Steve Vai. Martin, Kotzen, and Torpey decided to write songs without Sheehan, who was only given credit for two songs on Actual Size. Martin and the others were also upset with Sheehan's attitude during the recording of the "Shine" music video. This was when Martin and Torpey decided the only way to keep moving forward was to fire Sheehan. When Kotzen learned of the decision, he made the rest of the band have a meeting with Sheehan to join the dots, seeing as the reason he originally joined the band was to play and jam with Billy. Although Sheehan was upset that the other members had attempted to "fire" him from the band he created, he agreed to rejoin them, provided that that would be their farewell tour. The band then toured and ultimately disbanded, in February 2002, later issuing a statement in May.
Reunion and new albums (2009–2017)
A near Mr. Big "one-off" reunion took place on May 13, 2008, in Los Angeles, at the House of Blues, when Paul Gilbert was joined on stage by Pat Torpey, Richie Kotzen, and Billy Sheehan, for renditions of Humble Pie's "30 Days in the Hole" and original Mr. Big composition "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy". Reportedly, the three had such an amazing time that they decided to contact Eric Martin a few days later, and a reunion of the four original members (Paul, Eric, Pat, and Billy) was put into motion. On February 1, 2009, a radio announcement for "Koh Sakai's Burrn Presents: Heavy Metal Syndicate" contained a short message from Mr. Big, announcing the reunion of the original Mr. Big line-up to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their debut album. A press conference in Japan in February generated much excitement, and a tour of the country starting in June was announced, with shows in ten locations (including the Budokan). They held their first reunion concert outside Japan at Rock Cafe in Tallinn, Estonia, on September 2009, continuing their tour. Mr. Big toured India in October 2009 as part of the Reunion Tour, playing to huge crowds in Bangalore, Dimapur, and Shillong. In September 2010, Mr. Big recorded a seventh album with producer Kevin Shirley at a Los Angeles-area studio. The album was released in Japan on December 15, 2010, in Europe on January 21, 2011, and in the US in February 2011. What If... is their first album of new material in nearly 10 years. The band also toured in support of the album. The tour to support the album kicked off at The House of Blues, in Hollywood, California, on April 2, 2011, and ended at the Rockout Festival in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2011. The band also appeared at the Download Festival on June 2011. As part of the album release, the group created a music video for the song "Undertow". Directed by Vicente Cordero and Fernando Cordero, it featured the band in an industrial park.
Mr. Big released their eighth studio album ...The Stories We Could Tell on September 30, 2014, via Frontiers Records. It was produced by Pat Regan, who returned as producer for the first time since 1999's Get Over It. The band confirmed that Pat's fill-in for the upcoming world tour would be Burning Rain drummer Matt Starr, who had also previously performed with Ace Frehley and Joe Lynn Turner.The group's latest album, Defying Gravity, was recorded in Los Angeles in six days, and released on July 21, 2017.Due to Pat Torpey being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, he could not play drums fully on the record and played on only several tracks.  Matt Starr recorded the drum tracks, while Pat Torpey acted as "drum producer."
Death of Pat Torpey and possible last album (2018–present)
On February 7, 2018, drummer Pat Torpey died from complications of Parkinson's disease at the age of 64. His last show took place at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton on November 23, 2017. A memorial show took place on May 23, 2018 at The Canyon in Agoura Hills, California, with former member Richie Kotzen as a special guest. The all-star finale of "To Be With You" included, among others, Matt Sorum, Dave Amato, Ricky Phillips, Keith St John, Prescott Niles, Kelly Keagy, Jeff Scott Soto, Ace Von Johnson and Gregg Bissonette.
In October 2018, Eric Martin said in interview with Friday NI Rocks that the band was in the process of planning their at-that-time possible next and final album. According to Martin, once the band was done with its commitments, they will subsequently disband: "Yeah, that's the last hurrah – that's it. It feels a little uncomfortable to keep going without Pat Torpey." However this didn't materialize and the band entered a state of hibernation with band members devoting time to other projects. In January 2021, Billy Sheehan said that the band still exists, "[...]but, as you know, sadly we lost our drummer, and we don't have any plan at this point for anything. We'll just let nature take its course. At some point, maybe we'll do something again. We don't know. Maybe me and Paul, maybe me and Eric, maybe Eric and Paul, maybe us with a different drummer — it could be anything — but we have not discussed it at all, and we're just kind of letting it go." He also expressed dissatisfaction with Defying Gravity, claiming there was "mastering problem [...that] made the LP unlistenable." He went on to say that "the label ruined the record" by insisting on having the album and "putting it out when it's not ready. If we had another day to get it to proper mastering and get it done right, it would have been fine. 'Cause I was there for the final mixes — I went in there every day and listened to mixes. Pat was there with us too. We went through the mixes, and they were sounding great. And, unfortunately, we got screwed."
- Studio albums
- Mr. Big (1989)
- Lean into It (1991)
- Bump Ahead (1993)
- Hey Man (1996)
- Get Over It (1999)
- Actual Size (2001)
- What If... (2011)
- ...The Stories We Could Tell (2014)
- Defying Gravity (2017)
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