"There was never a tour booked this summer!" says Billy Joel, responding to Internet claims that he pulled the plug on a summer tour with Elton John. He continues, "Obviously, this has the smell of a really juicy story: 'Why did they cancel? Did Billy and Elton have a fight? What's going on?' The truth is, there's nothing going on. I had made up my mind a long time ago that I wasn't going to work this year."
Though the duo are currently performing together on their recurring Face to Face tour, these shows — which swept up the West Coast, and continue until March 11th in Buffalo — are make-up shows, rescheduled from canceled 2009 dates. Joel insists that rumors about 2010 summer tour were leaked by insiders at certain venues around the country. He explains, "There were a couple stories that came out that we were supposed to play Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and I think Pittsburgh was mentioned. Booking agents hold real estate. They like to research what's available when, to see if they can put together a series of dates. Then they'll come back to the artist and say, 'Look, if you wanted to, you could play such and such and such.' These rumors probably came from somebody at one of those venues who had to be a big shot and call the local newspaper and say, 'Hey, Billy and Elton are going to play here this summer.' "
Elton John even perpetuated the story himself. In a recent interview, he was quoted saying, "Billy just wants to take a year off. I'm so disappointed because when we came to Wrigley Field last year, it was like playing in the church of baseball." Joel responds, "Elton and I don't really sit down and discuss our future plans with each other. We see each other backstage and we hang out and kibitz and talk about music and life. When Elton did that interview, he'd just found out from his booking agent that I wasn't going to be working this summer, and therefore Elton's quote puts a spin on it that I'd changed my mind all of a sudden, or suddenly decided to cancel the tour, which is nonsense. There was never a tour booked!"
Before their February 22nd show in Denver, Joel approached John about his comments to the press. "When I saw him backstage, I said, 'Elton, what were you told about this supposed summer tour?' He goes, 'Well, I just found out you weren't going to be working this year, and I was heartbroken because I was looking forward to doing it.' " In his statement to the press, John also seemed to convey that their hugely successful Face to Face tour — which has brought in big crowds since 2004 — would be ending for good in Albany. "We'll probably pick it up again," says Joel. "It's always fun playing with him." He insists there is no bad blood. In Denver, their conversation ended thusly: "Elton said, 'Are you mad at me?' I said, 'No, I'm not mad, I just want to clarify what's going on here.' Everything's fine."
Joel says the thought of retirement looms in his mind, but he's always drawn back to the stage. "I see pictures of myself onstage, and I look at them and say, 'There has to be some kind of mandatory retirement age for doing this gig,' and then I watched the Super Bowl and saw the Who and I figure, 'Well, I guess there is no mandatory retirement age.' 'I hope I die before I get old,' — that went out the window. It's always possible that I'll tour again, whether it's with Elton or on my own. I love my job. For now I'm going to stop, but I won't sit around for the rest of my life and rot."
Joel claims last year was a rough one. "There was an incident with my daughter that was very shocking," he says of daughter Alexa's suicide attempt. "I got divorced. I worked a lot. I promised myself more personal time this year. I'm going to Italy, and I'll probably go to Paris. I'll probably take my boat to New England and hang out on the coast. I'll ride my motorcycle. I'll just be a bum."
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
MUSIC 9 Classic Devo Videos
OLYMPICS 18 Epic Opening Ceremonies