I Want You... to recover from the surgical removal of a small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy.
"I Want You"... to recover from the surgical removal of "a small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy." Emily Nokes/Stranger Archives

You know the feeling of waking up and looking at your phone before your rheumy eyes are even fully capable of focusing and the half-sight of a blurry headline turbo jolts you into full, panicky consciousness? Well, I had that this morning when, among the never-ending syllabus of the current president's crimes against humanity that constitutes my every feed, I saw the words "Elvis Costello," "cancel tour dates," and "cancer" scroll past.

I beg your fucking pardon?

The news was posted on Costello's website, and subsequently picked up by every outlet that does music and entertainment news. Fortunately, it appears to be the good version of bad news, which is to say, the kind that involves recovery, not mourning:


Elvis Costello has been forced to cancel the remaining 6 dates of his current European tour on medical grounds. His doctor has strongly advised him to take a break from his current tour itinerary and rest.

Ticket holders should go to point of purchase for refunds.

Elvis apologises to his fans and releases the following statement:

“Six weeks ago my specialist called me and said, "You should start playing the Lotto". He had rarely, if ever, seen such a small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy that could be defeated by a single surgery.

I was elated and relieved that our European summer tour could go ahead.

Post-surgical guidelines for such surgery, recommend three weeks to four weeks recovery depending on whether you are returning to a desk job or an occupation that involves physical work or travel.

It was impossible to judge how this advisory would line up with the demands on a traveling musician, playing 90-minute to 2-hour plus performances on a nightly basis but by the time we reached the Edinburgh Playhouse, I was almost fooled into thinking that normal service had been resumed.

I have to thank our friends attending last night's show in Amsterdam and those in Antwerp, Glynde and at Newcastle City Hall for bearing me up. The spirit has been more than willing but I have to now accept that it is going to take longer than I would have wished for me to recover my full strength. Therefore, I must reluctantly cancel all the remaining engagements of this tour.

My apologies go to our ticket holders in Manchester, Pula, Graz, Vienna, Tysnes and Rattvik but I would rather disappoint our friends there by not appearing than in pressing on with a show that is compromised and eventually puts my health at risk.

My deep thanks go to Pete Thomas, Steve Nieve and Davey Faragher of The Imposters for all their deep friendship, love and support during this upsetting time. Thanks also to Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee whose beautiful voices have spurred me on to do the singing that I've managed, whatever the cost. It goes without saying that there are many others who have worked to get us to the stage and from town to town to whom I am also deeply grateful.

To leave you with some more optimistic news, The Imposters and I - together with several of our other friends - have made a magnificent new record of which we are truly proud. It will be issued in October, I believe. We will return at the soonest opportunity to play that music and your favourite songs that still make sense to us all."

Costello chose not to reveal the type of cancer his surgery addressed, which is only fair, obviously. But the last paragraph of his statement would indicate that either the testicles or the prostate were at issue, and given the reported speed and ease of the procedure and aftermath, the former seems more likely. (Please make sure to engrave the preceding sentence on my tombstone. Jesus.)

"Take very good care of your loved ones but Gentleman, do talk to you friends - you'll find you are not alone - seek your doctor's advice if you are in doubt or when it is timely and act as swiftly as you may in these matters. It may save your life. Believe me, it is better than playing roulette."

(Side note: In all my years of extensive, obsessive thought about Elvis Costello, I can honestly say this is the first time I've had occasion to consider the state of his genital apparatus, his reproductive glands, or any of his other internal organs, with the possible exception of his bile duct.)

I haven't yet seen anyone refer to this harrowing development with a lyric quote from Costello's 1978 song "Lipstick Vogue," about what love just is and what you have to do with it. I'm grateful for that, because like all Elvis Costello fans, I live by a single creed: Don't fucking tell me about Elvis Costello.

All digits, meanwhile, remain crossed for Mr. MacManus's speedy recovery.

Elvis Costello and his band the Imposters (aka the Attractions minus one) are scheduled to play in Seattle on Monday, December 3 at the Paramount.