Billy Joel is setting the record straight on that headline-making falling out he had with Elton John five years ago, saying it wasn’t really what it seemed.
Superstars Joel and John hit the road together in the ’90s and made musical magic with duet-filled shows that always wrapped up with “Piano Man.” But after 16 years on the road, the Piano Man and the Rocket Man stopped touring together for good. And five years ago, Elton talked smack about Billy, and the two seemingly stopped speaking.
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In a new interview with the Daily Mail, Billy Joel says he and Elton John didn’t actually a have falling out, even though John publicly blamed him for their touring troubles.
It all started in 2011 when Elton John slammed Billy Joel in Rolling Stone after Joel pulled out of a planned 2010 summer tour. The “Candle in the Wind” singer blamed Joel’s drinking for some of their problems on the road.
“Billy’s a conundrum,” John said at the time. “We’ve had so many canceled tours because of illnesses and various other things, alcoholism … He’s going to hate me for this, but every time he’s gone to rehab, they’ve been rehab light. When I went to rehab, I had to clean the floors. He goes to rehab where they have TVs.”
Elton tried to soften his harsh comments by reiterating that he was really just concerned for his longtime musical collaborator.
“I love you, Billy, and this is tough love,” Elton continued. “Billy, you have your demons, and you’re not going to get rid of them at rehab light. You’ve got to be serious. People adore you, they love you and respect you. You should be able to do something better than what you’re doing now.”
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Now, five years after Elton John’s comments, Billy Joel is assuring fans that John’s Rolling Stone interview is not what caused him to stop touring with him.
“That’s NOT the reason we’re not touring anymore,” Joel told Daily Mail.
“I got tired of doing the same show over and over again and I think his agent told him we were going to do more dates that I never agreed to. I kept seeing in the press, ‘Billy canceled the tour.’ I didn’t cancel it; it was never booked. I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you call me? Don’t talk to my agent, talk to me.'”
Joel went on to explain that his own medical ailments — not his rehab stints — also contributed to his decision to put a stop to the headline-making concert bill.
“I had to have my hips replaced and that was the reason I was out of commission,” Billy said. “The last few gigs I did with Elton I could barely walk. I had canes – canes on stage is not good.”
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As for John’s scathing “tough love” tactics, Joel has his own take on that.
“I have had drinking issues in the past,” Billy admitted.
“So did he. I think at heart he meant well. At one point he said I went to a rehab that allowed me to have a dog. I thought, ‘You weren’t in rehab with me, you don’t know what happened.’ …Elton had a terrifying lifestyle when he checked into rehab. I didn’t have that problem. My drug was booze. A couple of years ago I went to a fundraiser for his AIDS foundation and I said, ‘Don’t throw your friends under the bus.'”
Billy also said that he and Elton didn’t always see eye to eye on the subject of writing new music. Joel hasn’t produced any new music in 23 years because he just stopped wanting to write songs, while John continues to churn out the new tunes.
“People can say I’m coasting, but I stopped wanting to write songs,” Joel said. “It took its toll…I hate writing but I love having written. I just stopped wanting to do it. Elton was always saying, ‘Why don’t you do a new album? Why don’t you write new songs?’ And I would reply, ‘Why don’t you put out fewer albums?’ I guess he wants to remain relevant, but if they don’t sell, what’s the point? I hate to think I’m a nostalgia act, but we all are, anyone who’s going to sell out arenas.”
Super 70s Smackdown! Greater music legend: RT for Elton John, Favorite for Billy Joel. pic.twitter.com/rSPf5rOLRU
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Last year Billy Joel broke Sir Elton’s record for playing the most solo performances — a whopping 65! — at Madison Square Garden. To celebrate the milestone, Billy tipped his hat to Elton by covering the song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” in his honor during the show, telling Entertainment Weekly he meant it as an homage to his old friend.
“He’s, like, the guy before me!” Joel explained. “He was the piano player before I was a Piano Man.”
Take a look at the video below to see Billy Joel performing with Elton John at Madison Square garden in 2000.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]