Elton John continued his “tough love for Billy Joel” tour on the “Today” show this morning, telling Matt Lauer that he understands why Joel may want to “punch my face at the moment,” a characterization that Joel denied this afternoon.
John said he is worried that Joel's alcoholism may not be under control and has caused several of their joint “Face to Face” tours to be canceled.
“I'm concerned,” John told Lauer. “He's gonna hate me and he's not going to be very happy with me and he's not going to talk to me, but it comes from a place of love. I said it's tough love. You don't take your dog to rehab. You just go in there and you try and listen.
“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,” John continued. “I understand why he's pissed with me and I can take that on the chin. Years ago when I was using, people tried to tell me, I didn't talk to them for years... They were only trying to help.”
(UPDATE: In a statement to Newsday, Joel said: "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.")
Joel, who is still undergoing physical therapy after his double hip replacement late last year, said, in response to John's similar comments in Rolling Stone, "I've worked with Elton for such a long time and I've enjoyed our relationship too much to let something as random as these comments change my affection for him. Elton is just being Elton."
John's charges seem strange to many, since Joel spent most of 2010 in Oyster Bay, working on opening his new 20th Century Cycles motorcycle shop and spending time with his daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, and not on tour with John. At the opening of his motorcycle shop, Joel told Newsday that there had been some miscommunication with John about a summer tour last year because Joel had planned to stay off the road in 2010 to spend time with family and friends. Generally, Long Islanders have been in Joel's corner, some even questioning why John would allow his song "Tiny Dancer" to be used in a Budweiser Super Bowl commercial if he was so worried about alcohol consumption.
For his part, John, who is promoting his new movie “Gnomeo & Juliet,” which opens Friday, said Joel has responded to his comments.
“He hates me at the moment and I understand why,” John said. “He sent me a message and he's not happy and I understand that. I really love the guy and I think he's an American treasure. As far as songwriting goes, he's up there with all of them – and from a New York point of view.”
John also recognized that his method might be questionable. “Maybe I should have done it privately, but I've been so frustrated over the years with some of the things,” he said. “I love the guy. I love everyone around him – his band, everyone. It was great fun. Elton John/Billy Joel is a no-brainer. It's 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.”
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW