Rob Dickins, CBE (chairman, Warner Music UK, 1983-99):
When I signed Enya, her manager/producer Nicky Ryan said, “You’re not going to push us for singles, are you?” It wasn’t that kind of music. After we’d made the Watermark album, I said as a joke, “Nicky, where’s the single?” A week later Nicky rang up and said, “We’ve got it!” Got what? “We’ve got the single!”
He sent over what became Orinoco Flow. There was no middle eight, and “Sail away” was after every line – it drove me crazy, but there was something there that could be worked on. Orinoco was the name of the studio and I think they saw me as the captain of the ship. The whole thing was a metaphor for a journey for all of us.
I was in charge of the record company for the UK and Ireland, but we never had any Irish music. Someone said, “You like Clannad, you’d like this soundtrack album this ex-Clannad member has done.” She’d done the music for the BBC series The Celts. I loved it and played it every night. We met at an Irish awards ceremony and I said, “You must do a vocal record.” The record company thought I was mad, but I said what became a famous quote – “Sometimes you sign acts to make money and sometimes you sign acts to make music.” In the week of release, Tower Records phoned up to say that when they played the album in the shop they sold 45 copies – almost everyone in the shop had bought the record. It was unheard of. It went from 29 to 5, then to number 1 and we sold bucketloads of albums. It was totally rags to riches.
It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Funnily enough, I hadn’t even noticed the lyric until they printed the album. It was embarrassing. But when it went to number 1 I thought, “I’m in the lyric of a number 1 song, how fabulous.” All these years later, if I heard that line “Rob Dickins at the wheel” I can’t help smiling.
The Guardian (UK): 13 December 2008