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Keys to the conspiracy

Piano Man and Rocket Man, the hairlines, the Cyndi Lauper connection ... the similarities are uncanny, wouldn't you say?

By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 7, 2002

[AP photo]
Billy Joel

[AP photo]
Elton John

Before these "Face to Face" tours began in 1995, had you ever seen pop piano stars Elton John and Billy Joel in the same room together?

Of course not.

They've got nothing in common but those 88 keys and a nearly equal number of hits between them.

Or could it be that you've never seen them together before because -- as we at Team Pop have long suspected -- they're the same person?

Call us paranoid, call us suspicious -- others have called us worse -- but it sure would make sense. All those piano-driven hits in the age of rock? The bevy of songs with eerily similar characters and stories about everyday men in bars playing the piano for a dime, or, um, in Elton's case, rocketing to the moon or being the savior of mankind?

You may ask: How to explain those onstage duets? Simple. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors? Tricky camera angles? Technology, kids. You can do anything these days with a stuffed dummy in a Victorian wig.

We here at Team Pop -- however conspiracy-minded we may be -- are settling this thing once and for all. The truth is out there. Here are the clues:

Both stars are shorter than average:

BILLY JOEL: 5 feet 7 inches

ELTON JOHN: 5 feet 8 inches

Both are bald:

BILLY JOEL: Chrome dome, hello!

ELTON JOHN: Okay, that's "hair," not hair. And it didn't used to be there. (We've got pictures.)

Both write frequently about men:

BILLY JOEL: Piano Man, An Innocent Man

ELTON JOHN: Rocket Man

... and, so tenderly, of women:

BILLY JOEL: She's Always a Woman

ELTON JOHN: The Bitch Is Back

Nearly identical girls show up in the songs:

BILLY JOEL: Uptown Girl

ELTON JOHN: Island Girl

Both have had duets with good-looking blonds:

BILLY JOEL: Christie Brinkley


Clues around the home:

BILLY JOEL: East Coast devotee (New York State of Mind, Allentown)

ELTON JOHN: Worships the West Coast (Songs from the West Coast, Rock of the Westies). Philadelphia Freedom shows Elton goes both ways.

Both, inexplicably, gravitate to the word 'honky':

BILLY JOEL: Honky Tonk Woman cover on 2000 Years

ELTON JOHN: Honky Cat on Honky Chateau

Both are preoccupied with leaving major cultural landmarks:

BILLY JOEL: Say Goodbye to Hollywood

ELTON JOHN: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Both have Italian connections:

BILLY JOEL: Had a hit with Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

ELTON JOHN: Was pals with the late fashion designer Gianni Versace

Hoity toity musical stuff:

BILLY JOEL: Classically trained pianist. Joel cites Chopin and Beethoven as influences. He's even composed an album of solo piano works.

ELTON JOHN: Played the Pinball Wizard (in the Who's rock opera flick Tommy). That's highbrow!

Fixation with Russia, anyone?

BILLY JOEL: Wrote Leningrad, recorded that live double album Kohuept

ELTON JOHN: Scored a hit with Nikita

Just listen to them talk:

BILLY JOEL: Has New York accent

ELTON JOHN: Has British accent. But, really, doesn't it sound kind of fake?

The motivation?

BILLY JOEL: Said he got into rock 'n' roll to "meet girls"

ELTON JOHN: Did that song with Kiki Dee

Where to find them. Or, not find them:

BILLY JOEL: Recorded an album called Songs in the Attic

ELTON JOHN: Once lived "in the closet"

Weighty stuff:

BILLY JOEL: Recorded a commercial with Chubby Checker in 1970

ELTON JOHN: Says he's self-conscious about being chubby.

Aesthetics aren't everything:

BILLY JOEL: Recorded The Nylon Curtain, 1982

ELTON JOHN: Probably wouldn't be caught dead with synthetic-blend window treatments

Who wants to have fun?

BILLY JOEL: Collaborated with Cyndi Lauper, 1985.

ELTON JOHN: Dressed like Cyndi Lauper throughout much of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Disney connection:

ELTON JOHN: Recorded a glut of sentimental songs for Disney soundtracks throughout the 1990s.

BILLY JOEL: These days, with the bald head, beard and paunch, resembles Doc from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Tantrums and tiaras:

BILLY JOEL: Was married to a diva

ELTON JOHN: Was honored as a VH-1 "diva," 1999

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