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One Booking the Piano Man Is Choosing to Miss

April 21, 1999|PAUL D. COLFORD | NEWSDAY

Early last year, Billy Joel described the tone of the book he was writing as "a mixture of Victor Borge and Danny Kaye."

"Making Notes," as it was tentatively titled, would be based on the master classes Joel had been giving at colleges. He would speculate on how he thought some of the great composers wrote their music and explore the emotional element in their work.

"Composers were a lot more human than we perceive them to be," he said.

More than a year later, however, "Making Notes" appears to be a dead issue--even though the book was still listed earlier this week on, described by the online bookseller as a December 1999 release from Riverhead Books.

Here's what happened:

At the start of Joel's worldwide tour a few months ago, he told Stephen Williams, Newsday's pop music editor, that he had come to disagree with the publisher's wish that the book be written entirely in his voice. After all, Sony Classical executive Anthony Rudell was collaborating on the manuscript too.

Mih-Ho Cha, a spokeswoman for Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., confirmed this week that the project was off--at least for now.

"He decided a few months ago that it really wasn't time," she said. "When the time is right, it may be revived."

For all of the sellout crowds drawn to rock concerts, and for all of the CDs that go platinum, few books by or about the artists break through and run up gigantic sales. However, the demonstrated passion of Joel's fans and the rock Hall of Famer's comfort with interviewers could have made "Making Notes" one of the bigger hits in the genre.

First Maxim, Now FHM: The speedy success of Maxim, the rowdy men's magazine that celebrates hard waters and curvaceous starlets and has a circulation nearing 950,000 copies a month, made it inevitable that one or more similar publications would come along in hopes of winning a piece of the same young audience.

The new contender, Stuff (For Men), is a Maxim look-alike that is also part of the Dennis Publishing family. Stuff's launch issue is one of four that Dennis will bring out this year. ("Czech Mate!" Stuff drools. "Daniela Pestova Loses Our Strip Poker Challenge." And this: "Massive Summer Gear Guide! Fast Cars, Hot Sex, Cold Beer.")

The next category entrant to watch may be FHM (For Him Magazine)--like Maxim and Stuff, a British import. Plans to publish an American edition of FHM, a very popular "laddie boy" mag, advanced last week when EMAP Petersen Inc. announced that it had named a full-time consultant "to oversee the development of FHM" in this country. Dana L. Fields, a former top executive of Wenner Media, the publisher of Rolling Stone and Men's Journal, also will seek to develop an American edition of Q, a popular British music magazine.

Paul D. Colford's e-mail address is

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