“Lost” Freddie Mercury Produced Song to Be Released in U.S.

Eddie Howell and Freddie Mercury at the recording session for ‘Man from Manhattan’. Photo © Mick Rock, courtesy of Jordan Lee, via prnewswire.com

“If this is not a hit dear, sue Warner Brothers.”

That is what Freddie Mercury allegedly said to Eddie Howell about his 1976 song “Man from Manhattan,” but the Mercury produced song was blacklisted just as it began to climb the UK charts. Consequently, the original mix of this “lost” song was never released in the United States –  until now.

At the end of July, the original mix of Howell’s “Man from Manhattan,” featuring Mercury and Queen lead guitarist Brian May, will be released to music streaming services in the U.S. Two other mixes of the song also will be simultaneously released alongside the original Mercury produced version, an adjusted version that makes slight changes to the sound of the instruments, and a remastered version that takes advantage of new audio mixing technology. In addition, Howell told Fire Island News that 5,000 limited edition white vinyl records containing all three versions of the song, and 10 other tracks, are currently available for preorder.

A different version of “Man from Manhattan,” with additional instrumental swing by Pirate Swing Band was released in 2018. The proceeds of that version of the song went to The Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity that fights HIV/AIDS founded to honor Mercury after his AIDS related death in 1991.

Prior to the blacklisting of the song, it was becoming a turntable hit in the UK and also was receiving heavy rotation in mainland Europe. Howell described walking down the street and hearing it playing out of car windows just two weeks before it was banned. Howell’s song was blacklisted within the UK and blocked from release in the United States and other major territories for over half a century over a dispute with the Musicians Union, a labor union representing 33,000 British musicians, according to the union’s website. The union somehow discovered that one of the musicians on the album was working without a permit and this led to a total ban on further media exposure. High level talks between Warner Brothers and the union did not prevent the killing of the record in the UK. The American release also was shelved because only songs that are hits domestically are released in foreign markets. Howell described the situation as “surreal,” “terrible” and “unfair.” Howell also said killing the song through tipping off the Musicians Union was an “inside job” and that the situation made him feel like he was “stabbed in the back.”

“Man From Manhattan” is a song about the mafia inspired by Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather Papers.” So, it makes sense that when asked to sum up the situation Howell said that “’The Man from Manhattan’ got taken down by a hit man.” If that is the case, music industry bureaucracy was certainly a co-conspirator in the song’s murder. Now however the song is back from the dead. Howell stressed that he does not dwell on how the situation played out saying: “I’ll always have fond memories of making the record and working with Freddie and Bryan was indeed a privilege. I always dreamed of the day I could give the ‘Man from Manhattan’ a second chance and I’m glad to say that day is not too far away now.”

Howell never did sue Warner Brothers over his song not being a hit. Mercury was joking when he made the suggestion and Howell said he would not have had a legal leg to stand on if he had tried to sue. Still, he did finally open negotiations with the company to get the rights to it back and his success in those negotiations are why we will soon finally get to hear the “Man from Manhattan” for ourselves.