It's an age-old question that will probably never be answered: Does Billy Joel suck, or does he actually rule? Impossible to say, really. But, whatever your stance, do not pal around with The Piano Man and pretend you're best buds when actually you're a nasty music critic who's going to go back to his office and trash the guy's work. Because Billy is not having it! "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 wrote to New Zealand Sunday Times-Star scribe Grant Smithies the other day.

Joel continues: "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 defends himself, saying-Oh wait, he just kind of squirms: "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." [Sunday Star-Times]