Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil

Though he left the band for more than five years to concentrate on a solo career, singer Vince Neil is back with heavy-metal band Mötley Crüe. The group is now readying its second studio release since Neil's return.

Vincent Neil Wharton was born February 8, 1961, in Hollywood, Calif. He attended Royal Oak High School in Covina, Calif. (also the school of his future Mötley Crüe bandmate Tommy Lee).

In 1978 Neil began playing in his first band, Rock Candy, a Cheap Trick cover act. Three years later, drummer Lee and bassist Nikki Sixx (born Frank Ferranno) were looking for a second guitarist (they had just added lead guitarist Mick Mars) for their newly formed hard-rock band Christmas.

While Christmas went to see Rock Candy in order to acquire a guitarist, they liked Neil's singing enough to fire their original vocalist and hire him. The foursome then changed its name to Mötley Crüe and signed with Elektra Records.

Mötley Crüe's first two LPs, Too Fast for Love and Shout at the Devil, were both issued in 1983; the latter made the top 20 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. MTV picked up the video for the power ballad "Home Sweet Home" from Theatre of Pain (1985). The clip's heavy rotation and the Crüe's popular cover of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys Room" pushed the album into the top 10.

The band's chart success, coupled with its infamous live act (elaborate light displays, fireworks, often-lewd female dancers), made Mötley Crüe one of the defining '80s pop-metal acts. Girls, Girls, Girls (Real Audio excerpt of title cut) (1987) and the #1 Dr. Feelgood (1989), featuring "Kickstart My Heart," propelled the group to the pinnacle of its success.

Neil also dabbled in acting. He had a part in Andrew Dice Clay's movie, "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" (1990), for which Mötley Crüe recorded "Rock n' Roll Junkie."

In 1992 Neil was fired from Mötley Crüe, reportedly for paying too much attention to his racecar-driving hobby and not enough to songwriting. Neil also battled personal demons. In 1985 he was jailed for vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving after an accident that caused the death of his friend, Hanoi Rocks member Nicholas Dingley. In 1989 he punched a member of Guns N' Roses and began a feud with lead singer Axl Rose.

Neil signed a solo contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1992 and issued Exposed, featuring Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame on lead guitar. He also bought licensing rights for Hawaiian Tropic beachwear and started the Xposure line of swimsuits. Mötley Crüe currently sell their licensed sportswear (including Neil's BadBones label) at their L.A. store, S'Crüe.

Neil suffered a tragedy in 1995, when his 4-year-old daughter, Skylar, succumbed to cancer. On his second solo LP, Carved in Stone (1996), Neil included a composition for her, "Skylar's Song."

Mötley Crüe's fortunes improved when Neil returned (replacing his replacement John Corabi) in 1997 for Generation Swine. The following year they issued a greatest-hits album on their own Mötley Records featuring new cuts "Bitter Pill" and "Enslaved."

The band's extramusical escapades — Lee's tumultuous marriage to actress Pamela Anderson and Sixx's arrest for inciting concert-goers into a frenzy (during the band's tour for the 1999 Supersonic & Demonic Relics) — began to generate more attention than its music. Lee eventually left the group for a solo project and was replaced by Randy Castillo.

In 1998 Neil followed Lee and Anderson's infamous sex video by releasing a similar tape in which he cavorted with his wife, porn star Janine Lindenmueler.

Mötley Crüe's first live album, Entertainment or Death, was released last year.

"I love touring," Neil said before the tour for their greatest-hits album. "We all love touring. It's exciting to go back out. I've been sitting around too long. I think this year we're going to do just a back-to-basics show, with a full thousand Marshall amps. Just a rock show, no big screens, no nothing, just a rock 'n' roll, in-your-face, basic show."

The band is now preparing a new LP for a tentative summer release. Tracks may include "God Drives a UFO," "Crash-o-matic," "Treat Me Like the Dog That I Am," "Hollywood Ending" and "New Tattoo." Mötley Crüe are scheduled to participate in the "Maximum Rock 2000 tour" with Megadeth and Coal Chamber.

Next week, Cleopatra Records will issue a Mötley Crüe tribute LP by various artists.

Other birthdays on Tuesday: Tom Rush, 59; Creed Bratton (Grass Roots), 57; Adolpho "Fito" de la Parra (Canned Heat), 54; Paul Wheatbread (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap), 54; Paul Barker (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), 50; Michael Goodroe (Motels), 50; Sam Llanas (BoDeans), 39; Will Turpin (Collective Soul), 29.