Business Week’ Diane Brady reports (via Lefsetz) Mr. Blackwell recollections:
I didn’t get U2’s music—the sound was too trebly for me—but I signed them because I loved them as people. I talked to Richard Branson at a party and liked him so much that I helped him start Virgin Rec-ords. I met Cat Stevens when he was trying to do a musical on the Russian Revolution, and even though I wasn’t interested in the musical, I loved his passion. I told him to rustle up his hair, look a little crazed, and tell his label that he wanted to do his next record with the London Philharmonic. He was released from his contract and came to work with me.
In 1972, I got a lot of criticism for giving Bob Marley money—without a contract—to record an album. Everyone said I was crazy. Marley was known as a rebel; he had a reputation for being difficult, and when I met him, he was totally broke. I fronted him some 4,000 pounds—a fair bit then—which effectively said, “If you want to screw me, screw me.” There was something about him, though, and I think he did trust me. But it helped that I trusted him first.