New Kids on the Block hit roadblocks -- The group deals with getting older as their latest single, ''If You Go Away'' hits radio

Onetime pop mega-group the New Kids on the Block are facing a more troubling image crisis than the one over whether they really sing their own songs. Industry sources say their label, Columbia, is so worried that the aging teen idols can’t sell records anymore that it initially sent out the group’s new ballad, ”If You Go Away,” to radio stations as an uncredited single, although the label vehemently denies this. When one programmer asked Columbia for the group’s identity, he says he was told ”Double D and Triple J” (for Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jon, and Jordan, the fivesome’s first names).

”If You Go Away,” by ”NKOTB,” hit record stores last week. The single appears just as the Kids are suing Gregory McPherson, their former music director, who recently filed a separate $12 million lawsuit for breach of contract. (McPherson publicly alleges that they sing no more than 20 percent of their songs.) A spokeswoman for Columbia says the label didn’tend to release ”If You Go Away” at all, but the single’s success as part of a four- song CD available outside the U.S. made it, says the spokeswoman, ”something we were forced to put out.” Currently on a world tour, the group has no plans for a new album.

Before they record one, though, they might want to consider revamping their image. DJs at Top 40 radio stations say that today the mere mention of the New Kids, who have sold over 16 million albums in their seven-year career, is enough to make listeners turn the dial. The group’s last album, No More Games, dropped off the Billboard Top 200 chart more than six months ago, after 32 weeks. ”They’re just like the Osmonds or David Cassidy, or anybody whose audience is rooted in the very, very young,” says DJ Scott Shannon of New York City’s WPLJ-FM. ”Their time passes very quickly.”