Billy Joel hosted a party in his new motorcycle shop,...

Billy Joel hosted a party in his new motorcycle shop, 20th Century Cycles in Oyster Bay. Featured are his collection of vintage bikes. (Nov. 6, 2010) Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Billy Joel says he doesn't hate Elton John and doesn't want to "punch him in the face" after his friend and concert-mate continued his "tough love" campaign about Joel's alcohol issues Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.

John, promoting the movie "Gnomeo and Juliet," which features a soundtrack heavy with his songs, told Matt Lauer that Joel "hates me at the moment and I understand why." He was alluding to a recent Rolling Stone interview in which John lamented tour dates canceled because of Joel's "illnesses and . . . alcoholism."

Though Joel, 61, shrugged it off publicly, saying that "Elton is just being Elton," John, 63, told Lauer, "He sent me a message and he's not happy and I understand that."

Conceding, "Maybe I should have done it privately," John noted that, "I've been so frustrated over the years with some of the things." He added that touring with Joel has been "the greatest fun I've ever had. I do love him and I want to stress that. He may want to punch my face in at the moment, but it's OK."

His concern, John stressed, "comes from a place of love. . . . I'm sorry I had to say it, but I'm saying it because I really want Billy to live a long life and be very happy, and that's all it came from. "

Through his spokeswoman, Claire Mercuri, Joel said Thursday, "1. I do not hate Elton John. 2. I do not want to 'punch him in the face.' 3. If he wants to call me, my number is still the same. 4. Good luck with the movie."

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