|"Those Were the Days"|
A-side label of UK single
|Single by Mary Hopkin|
|B-side||"Turn! Turn! Turn!"|
|Mary Hopkin singles chronology|
|"Those Were The Days"|
|Single by Sandie Shaw|
|B-side||"Make It Go"|
|Sandie Shaw singles chronology|
"Those Were the Days" is a song credited to Gene Raskin, who put a new English lyric to the Russian romance song "Dorogoi dlinnoyu" ("Дорогой длинною", literally "By the long road"), composed by Boris Fomin (1900–1948) with words by the poet Konstantin Podrevsky. It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism.
Mary Hopkin's 1968 debut single of "Those Were the Days", which was produced by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart and on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. The song also reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, behind "Hey Jude" by the Beatles. It was number one in the first edition of the foreign singles sales chart launched by the Centre d'Information et de Documentation du Disque.
The song appears in the 1953 British/French movie Innocents in Paris, in which it was sung with its original Russian lyrics by the Russian Tzigane chanteuse Ludmila Lopato. Mary Hopkin's 1968 recording of it with Gene Raskin's lyric was a chart-topping hit in much of the Northern Hemisphere. On most recordings of the song, Raskin is credited as the sole writer, even though he wrote only the later English lyrics (which are not an English translation of the Russian lyrics) and not the music.
In the early 1960s Raskin, with his wife Francesca, played folk music around Greenwich Village in New York, including White Horse Tavern. Raskin, who had grown up hearing the song, wrote with his wife, new English lyrics to the old Russian music and then copyrighted both music and lyrics in his own name. The Limeliters subsequently released a recording of the song on their 1962 LP Folk Matinee. The Raskins were international performers and had played London's "Blue Angel" every year, always closing their show with the song. Paul McCartney frequented the club and being quite taken with the song he attempted to get several singers or groups (including the early Moody Blues) to record it. Failing at that, after the formation of the Beatles' own Apple Records label, McCartney immediately recorded Mary Hopkin performing the song. He later said "I thought it was very catchy, it had something, it was a good treatment of nostalgia... (Hopkin) picked it up very easily, as if she'd known it for years." The song was eventually recorded in over twenty languages and by many different artists, including Gene and Francesca, and Raskin was able to live very well on the royalties, buying a home in Pollensa, Mallorca, a Porsche Spyder and a sail boat.
Hopkin's recording was produced by Paul McCartney with an arrangement by Richard Hewson and became a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart. In the United States, Hopkin's recording reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (held out of the top spot for three weeks by "Hey Jude" by The Beatles) and topped the Billboard Easy Listening charts for six weeks. In the Netherlands, it topped the charts for two consecutive weeks. The Russian origin of the melody was accentuated by an instrumentation that was unusual for a top-ten pop record, including balalaika, clarinet, hammered dulcimer or cimbalom, tenor banjo and children's chorus, giving a klezmer feel to the song. Mary Hopkin played acoustic guitar on the recording, and Paul McCartney also played acoustic guitar and possibly percussion. The cimbalom was played by Gilbert Webster. The player of the banjo is not recorded, although McCartney was known to occasionally play banjo.
McCartney also recorded Hopkin singing "Those Were The Days" in other languages for release in their respective countries:
- In Spain, Qué tiempo tan feliz
- In West Germany, An jenem Tag
- In Italy, Quelli erano giorni
- In France, Le temps des fleurs
"Those Were the Days" was catalogue number APPLE 2 (the APPLE 1 number had been given to an unreleased version of "The Lady Is a Tramp" by Frank Sinatra, recorded specially in 1968, for Maureen Starkey's 22nd birthday, as a gift from Ringo Starr, under the name of "The Lady is a Champ"). It was the second single to be released on the Apple label, the first — "Hey Jude" by the Beatles —had retained the sequential catalogue numbers used by Parlophone (in the UK) and Capitol (in the US).
Hopkin's version was released on the back of her success on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks, and around the time of its release popular singer Sandie Shaw was also asked to record the song by her management, feeling that it should be done by a "real" singer. Shaw's version was released as a single, but did not match the success of Hopkin's version.
At the peak of the song's success, a New York company used the melody in a commercial for Rokeach gefilte fish, arguing that the tune was an old Russian folk-tune and thus in the public domain. (The commercial included the line "The perfect dish, Rokeach Gefilte Fish" where the English-language song would go "Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days.") Raskin successfully sued and won a settlement, since he had slightly altered the tune to fit his lyrics and had taken out the valid new copyright.
In the mid-1970s, after Hopkin's contract with Apple ended, "Those Were the Days" and "Goodbye" were re-recorded with producer Tony Visconti, whom she had married in 1971. These re-recorded versions can be found on music compilations.
On 25 October 2010, Apple Records released Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records, which included the original recordings of "Those Were the Days" and "Goodbye". The greatest hits compilation album contained songs by artists signed to the Beatles' Apple record label between 1968 and 1973, the first such multi-artist Apple compilation.
On Christmas 1969, the President of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, had 150 alleged coup plotters executed in the national stadium while the amplifier system played the Mary Hopkins' recording of "Those Were the Days".
In 2011, Hopkin's version of the song was used by Nando's South Africa in a satirical advert featuring Robert Mugabe as the 'Last Dictator Standing'. The advert was axed quickly, due to controversy and condemnation from pro-Mugabe loyalists.
Chart performance (Mary Hopkin version)
- 1959: Theodore Bikel recorded this song, in the original Russian language.
- 1968: The French version of the song, "Le temps des fleurs", was popularized by the international recording star Dalida. She also recorded the song in Italian and German.
- In the 1960s: Mary Hopkin and Sandie Shaw also sang the song in French, as well as in Italian, Spanish and German. Both Shaw's and Hopkin's versions were released roughly around the same time, as a sort of competition between the two, to see whose single would fare better with the public. When Hopkin's album, Postcard, was re-released on CD, the Spanish and Italian versions of the songs appeared as bonus tracks. Sandie Shaw has had all of her versions re-released on separate CDs, split up by language.
- 2005: American country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton recorded an album including folk and pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s. This was the opening song and title track to her album Those Were The Days. Mary Hopkin provided backing vocals to this recording.
- 2007: Japanese vocalist Noriko Mitose included a version on her 2007 album Cotton, entitled "Hana no Kisetsu" (花の季節, literally "Flower Season", itself a translation of "Les temps des fleurs"). The arrangement is provided by guitarist Tomohiko Kira.
- 2019: British folk artist Laura Marling covered "Those Were the Days" as part of a companion album to the film Roma.
- Apple Records discography
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- List of number-one adult contemporary singles of 1968 (U.S.)
- List of number-one singles of 1968 (Canada)
- List of number-one hits of 1968 (Germany)
- List of number-one singles of 1968 (Ireland)
- List of number-one singles of 1968 (Spain)
- List of number-one singles from 1968 to 1979 (Switzerland)
- List of Oricon number-one singles of 1969
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The Hopkin single, a McCartney-produced traditional Russian folk song, knocked Apple 1 ("Hey Jude") off the U.K. top slot.
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Mary Hopkin's debut single paired "Those Were The Days," a Lithuanian folk song adapted by American Gene Raskin
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