Billy Joel's fuming: We've gone and started a fire

Last updated 23:52 09/08/2008

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WHEN SUNDAY STAR-TIMES music critic Grant Smithies called some of Billy Joel's music "sentimental rubbish" he didn't expect the rock star to read it. Much less respond.

But the Piano Man, a former boxer, has come out punching writing to Smithies and suggesting that if the reviewer comes to hear him play in Auckland in December, he should wear a hockey mask for his own protection.

"I had no idea when you interviewed me that you considered much of my later work to be `sentimental rubbish', or that you thought songs like "Uptown Girl" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" were `abominations'. And your back-slapping, buddy-buddy style of conversation betrayed no indication that you actually compared talking with me to `sleeping with an inflatable girlfriend'," Joel fumed.

"You didn't bring any of this up during the interview, and I certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss those kinds of things, person to person. I believe that it's always best to be upfront with someone when you have strong opinions about their work or their image, simply as a gesture of respect, or if the respect isn't there, then purely as professionalism. Had I known you felt this way, I still would have done the bloody interview, but your comments reveal you to be already critically predisposed and somewhat insincere. You are still welcome to attend our concert in Auckland, but just as a safety precaution, please wear a hockey mask."

Smithies, who has been a music writer for nearly 20 years and defends his right to express his personal opinion, says it is unusual for someone of such high profile to read his press, let alone respond to it.

"I've had letters before from the bass player in some local band who is pissed off because I said his record is crap... but I've never had a letter from someone in the big league before. It's actually made him go up in my estimation. He just wants respect for his work and I think good on him for making direct contact. He was great to talk to and no matter what I think of those songs, other people clearly love them because he's sold over 150 million records."

Smithies won't be attending the Auckland concert and says he is relieved he is safely out of the former boxer's reach.

"He was undefeated in 21 fights. So I do feel fortunate that I'm not living in New York so he can't come around and smack me one."

Billy Joel plays Auckland's Vector Arena on Sunday, December 14. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster, ph (09) 970-9700, www.ticketmaster.co.nz.

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- Sunday Star Times

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