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The Orinoco River flows across South America. It is about 1,300 miles long and goes through parts of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. The song's title refers to Orinoco Studios in London, in which this and the rest of the Watermark album was recorded. It is not known if it was a dual reference to the South American river as well.
This was Enya's first hit. It got a lot of exposure and was released as a single after getting airplay on The Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio One in the UK. Enya went on to become the best-selling female singer in the world.
The words "We can steer, we can near, with Rob Dickens at the wheel" refer to Rob Dickins, the head of her record label WEA. Dickins is listed as a producer on the album. In an article published December 13, 2008, Dickins said: "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 five, then to #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 #1 I thought, 'I'm in the lyric of a number one song, how fabulous.' All these years later, if I hear that line 'Rob Dickins at the wheel' I can't help smiling." (thanks, John - Watford, England)
The lyricist was Roma Ryan, the wife of the song's producer Nicky Ryan. In 1000 UK #1 Hits
by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Ryan said: "Orinoco Flow was a very difficult song to work on, because we had it shelved a few times. We would work on it for a while, leave it, then go back to it again, but in the end we said 'This is good.' All the time it was an album track and only at the very end was it decided it might be good as a single."
The video was an extension of the Watermark album sleeve. Enya commented (also in 1000 UK #1 Hits), "We were so happy with the cover which was basically a picture of me, but there layers and layers of beautiful imagery revolving around me that were hand painted on, and this is what we achieved with the video." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
In a bit of cinematic dissonance similar to the "Singin' In The Rain
" scene in A Clockwork Orange
or the "Stuck In The Middle With You
" scene in Reservoir Dogs
, this song was used in a violent scene in the 2011 movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
. According to the film's director David Fincher, they liked the idea of the villain enjoying music when he kills, and the star of the movie Daniel Craig dialed up this song on his iPod. They felt it was a great fit and used the song for the scene.
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