Those Were the Days (song)

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"Those Were the Days"
Single by Mary Hopkin
B-side "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Released 26 August 1968 (US)
30 August 1968 (UK)
Format 7" single
Recorded mid-July 1968
Genre Folk[1][2]
Length 5:05
Label Apple
Writer(s) Boris Fomin and Gene Raskin
Producer(s) Paul McCartney
Mary Hopkin singles chronology
"Those Were the Days"
"Those Were The Days"
Single by Sandie Shaw
B-side "Make It Go"
Released 1968
Genre Pop
Label Pye
Writer(s) Gene Raskin, Boris Fomin
Sandie Shaw singles chronology
"Those Were the Days"
"Monsieur Dupont"

"Those Were the Days" is a song credited to Gene Raskin, who put English lyrics to the Russian romance song "Dorogoi dlinnoyu" ("Дорогой длинною", lit. "By the long road"), composed by Boris Fomin (1900–1948) with words by the poet Konstantin Podrevskii. It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism.

Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli (1900–1968) and Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky made what were probably the earliest recordings of the song, in 1925[3] and in 1926[4] respectively.

The song is featured 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, but is probably best remembered in English-speaking countries for Mary Hopkin's 1968 recording, which was a top-ten hit in both the US and the UK. On most recorded versions of the song, Raskin is credited as the writer, even though he wrote only the later English lyrics and not the melody.


In the early 1960s Raskin, with his wife Francesca, played folk music around Greenwich Village in New York, including White Horse Tavern. They released an album which included the song, which was taken up by The Limeliters.[5] Raskin had grown up hearing the song, wrote lyrics in English and then put a copyright on both tune and lyrics. 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, after the formation of The Beatles' own Apple Records label, recorded the song with Mary Hopkin, McCartney's agent having purchased the song rights from Raskin's. The song was subsequently recorded in over twenty languages and by many different artists and Raskin was able to live very well on the royalties, buying a home in Pollensa, Mallorca, a Porsche Spyder and a sailing boat.

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. 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.

Although the song was popularized in the early 1960s by The Limeliters,[6] Welsh singer Mary Hopkin made the best known recording, released on 30 August 1968, shortly after Hopkin had been signed to the Beatles' newly created Apple label. Hopkin's recording was produced by Paul McCartney and became a #1 hit in the UK Singles Chart. In the US, Hopkin's recording reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Easy Listening charts for six weeks.[7] In the Netherlands it topped the charts for 2 consecutive weeks.[8] The Russian origin of the melody was accentuated by an instrumentation which was unusual for a top ten pop record, including balalaika, clarinet, hammer dulcimer, tenor banjo and children's chorus, giving a klezmer feel to the song.

Paul McCartney, who produced the session, also recorded Hopkin singing "Those Were The Days" in four other languages for release in their respective countries:

All four non-English sets of lyrics were also recorded by Dalida and Sandie Shaw with Shaw recording the English lyrics as well.

The UK and US recording's B-side was Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!", which had been a US #1 hit for The Byrds in 1965.

"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 Rodgers and Hart, recorded especially 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 beat the success of Hopkin's version.

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. Only these re-recorded versions can be found on music compilation discs because Apple never allows its original recordings to be used.

On Christmas 1975, the President of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, had 150 alleged coup plotters executed in the national stadium while a band played "Those Were the Days".[9]

In 2005, Dolly Parton released a cover of "Those Were the Days," which featured backing vocals by Mary Hopkin. That year, the song became the title track of Dolly Parton's album Those Were The Days.

Other versions[edit]

  • 1953 - The original Russian song features in the movie Innocents in Paris, sung by the celebrated Russian chanteuse, Ludmila Lopato.
  • 1958 - The song was performed by Maria Schell in the American film The Brothers Karamazov
  • 1959 - Theodore Bikel recorded this song, in the original Russian language.
  • 1962 - American folk group The Limeliters recorded the song and later released it on their 1968 album of the same name.
  • 1967 - UK singer Engelbert Humperdinck covered the song on his 1967 album The Last Waltz.
  • 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.
  • 1968 - The international recording star Vicky Leandros recorded the French version "Le temps des fleurs" and had a huge hit in Japan, Canada, and Greece with this song.
  • 1968 - Halina Kunicka - "To były piękne dni" ("Those were beautiful days" in Polish)
  • 1968 - Violetta Villas - "Znowu Ciebie mam" (in Polish). Her version caused controversy in Poland as Villas used lyrics she ordered from a songwriter who had re-written them without permission. Unhappy with this version, she re-wrote the lyrics in the 70s and performed it with the title "Miłością znów żyję".
  • 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.
  • 1968 - Gigliola Cinquetti covered the song in Italian ("Quelli erano i giorni", with Italian lyrics by Claudo Daiano) and Spanish.
  • 1968 - Päivi Paunu covered the song in Finnish. Followed by eight other covers in 1968-1991, before the Leningrad Cowboys.
  • 1968 - Turkish version by Semiramis Pekkan called "Bu Ne Biçim Hayat".
  • 1968 - Portuguese version (Portugal) by Natércia Barreto called "É Primavera, amor".
  • 1968 - Zdenka Vučković recorded Croatian version (Yugoslavia ) named "Gdje su dani ti" (Where are the days)
  • 1968 - Tatiana Hubinská recorded Slovakian version named "Kokotik jarabi".
  • 1969 - Elaheh, Iranian pop singer performs a Farsi version of the song. Name of the song in Farsi is "افسانه برگ‌ها" which translates to "The Fable of Leaves".
  • 1969 - Bing Crosby recorded the song for his album "Hey Jude/Hey Bing!" [1]
  • 1969 - Roger Whittaker recorded the song for his album This Is Roger Whittaker [2]
  • 1969 - Mexican version by Los Rockin Devils band, entitled "Esos Fueron Los Dias."
  • 1968-1969 - Olle Bergman lyrics in Swedish, "Ja, det var då", reached Svensktoppen with recordings by both Lena Hansson (3 weeks) and Anita Lindblom (7 weeks).
  • 1969 - Margareta Paslaru recorded the Romanian version of Hopkin's song - "Azi vreau sa rad din nou" (Today I want to laugh again)
  • 1968 - Mira Gubik - "Rég elmúlt víg napok" (Hungarian version)
  • 1969 - The 5th Dimension covered the song in their album The Age of Aquarius.
  • 1969 - Teréz Harangozó (Hungarian version: "Azok a szép napok").
  • 1969 - Ivan Rebroff made a Russian version of the song, called "Такие дни, мой друг" (Takiyeh dni, moj drug). The song was a verbatim translation of the first two verses and the chorus of "Those Were the Days", but without any rhythm or rhyme. It was released as a single and was also included on the "Live" album Russische Party of the same year.
  • 1969 - Shuli Natan recorded a Hebrew version - "כאלה היו הימים" (ka'ele hayou hayamim), to lyrics translated by Mickey Hartby. Later on, Avi Toledano made another Hebrew cover of the song.
  • 1969 - Ryoko Moriyama and Akemi Hirokawa sung Japanese version of the song, called "Kanashiki Tenshi (悲しき天使)."
  • 196? - Georgian Nani Bregvadze[10] (Russian, "Dorogoi dlinnoyu", USSR) (available on the 1971 album Нани Брегвадзе, Мелодия 33СМ03055-56)
  • 1969 - Alexandra (Germany)
  • 1969 - Brazilian singer Joelma sung Portuguese version of the song, called "Aqueles Tempos (Those Days)".
  • 1969 - Saxophonist Dexter Gordon recorded an instrumental version of the song on his album The Tower of Power.
  • 1970 - Teresa Teng (Taiwan) sang a traditional Chinese version of the song called "往日的時光."
  • 197? - Irena Kohont, Slovenian singer, made a Slovenian version of the song, named "To so bili dnevi", together with a music video.
  • 197? - Pakastani singer Alamgir made an Urdu verion of the song called "Mein teray liyay Baichain".
  • 197? - Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir made a Dari version of the song called "Zeba Negaram".
  • 197? - Bad Manners recorded the song, but decided not to release it at the time. The recording was eventually released in 2005 as part of 'The Ultimate Bad Collection' box set.
  • 1976 - Zoi Kouroukli made popular the Greek version of the song, called "Χαμένα Όνειρα (Khamena Oneira)", literally meaning "Lost Dreams", although it first performed by Leo Leandros in 1968, with lyrics by Thanasis Tsongas.
  • 1978 - A Czech singer Zdenka Lorencová covered the song in Czech named "Dál stále jde čas." ("The Time Still Goes By")
  • 1987 - Tiny Tim, covered this song on the 1987 album Tiptoe Through the Tulips: Resurrection
  • 1989 - Hungarian band Dolly Roll covered the song in Hungarian with different lyrics from the version of Teréz Harangozó. ("Ábrándos szép napok")
  • 1989 - The Wedding Present, recorded "Давні Часи / Davni Chasy" better known as "Those Were the Days My Friend", for Українські Виступи в Івана Піла / Ukrainian John Peel Sessions which was released in February 1989. Українські Виступи в Івана Піла reached #22 in the UK Albums Chart.
  • 1990 - Demon Kogure covered "Those Were the Days" on his first solo album "Koshoku yorozu goe otoko".
  • 1990 - Flamenco duo Azúcar Moreno covered the song in Spanish as "Cuando El Amor Se Va" on their international breakthrough album Bandido.
  • 1991 - Leningrad Cowboys covered "Those Were the Days" for the Aki Kaurismäki short film of the same name. The song was later released on their 1992 album We Cum From Brooklyn.
  • 1992 - Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Ensemble covered the song in the 1992 Total Balalaika Show and the performance was released on the live album Total Balalaika Show - Helsinki Concert later the same year.
  • 1994 - In the 70's, The song was translated into Bengali by Bengali Folk Song artist Ranjan Prasad as "Sei Rongin Dinguli", literally "Those colorful days". It was released in 1994 by Concord Records performed by the singers Madhusree, Madhurita and Amrita, popularly known as the Concord Trio or simply Trio.
  • 1994 - Cara Jones covered "Those Were the Days" on her debut album Different Skies. Also, Ground Zero covered "Those Were the Days" on their album Plays Standards.
  • 1994 - The Croatian group Vatrogasci (Firefighters) made a parody of this song, translating it into Croatian (naming it "Ajnc, cvaj draj") and making it in turbofolk arrangement.
  • 1994 - The Three Tenors sang it as part of their concert in Los Angeles.
  • 1995 - The Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers & Robbie O'Connell recorded this song on their album Older but No Wiser. The title of the album comes from the last verse of the song.
  • 1996 - British and American comedian Tracey Ullman utilized the composition (with some original lyrics added) in the episode Nostalgia from her HBO sketch comedy series, Tracey Takes On... (Series 1, Episode 3, which originally aired on February 7, 1996).
  • 1998 - The German version of the song, "An jenem Tag", was popularized by the international top star Karel Gott on his best of triple album Einmal um die ganze Welt.
  • 2000 - German band Brings covered the song as "Superjeile Zick"
  • 2000 - Ghetto People covered "Those Were the Days". In 2001 they showed the video.
  • 2001 - Finnish folk metal band Turisas covered "Those Were the Days" on their 2001 EP The Heart of Turisas.
  • 2001 - Lithuanian country singer/songwriter Virgis Stakėnas covered the song as "Kelelis tolimas" on his album Country Mama.
  • 2004 - Dayna Kurtz covered "Those Were the Days" on her album Beautiful Yesterday. Also, New York cabaret artists Kiki & Herb included the song in their Carnegie Hall debut concert Kiki & Herb Will Die for You.
  • 2005 - Folk singer Susan Lainey covered "Those Were The Days" in her self-titled album. The song would later be selected in October 2006 by the internationally aired #1 television show Nip/Tuck, for a scene in Season 3 Episode 4.
  • 2005 - Although not exactly a cover, 50 Cent used an electric guitar version of the melody of "Those Were the Days" in Dr. Dre-produced track "When It Rains, It Pours". Also, 2005 was the year Dolly Parton covered "Those Were the Days". Parton's recording featured guest vocals by Hopkin.
  • 2005 - The Hungarian violinist Jozsef Lendvay covered this song on his Echo Klassik CD Lendvay & Friends.
  • 2005 - Il Folklorista covered "Those Were the Days"; Il Folklorista is a project by Gigi D'Agostino and Luca Noise. The remix was featured in the compilation albums Disco Tanz and 2006s Some Experiments.[11]
  • 2006 - "Those Were the Days" was converted to a chant by Carsi, a supporter group of the Turkish football team Besiktas JK, Istanbul. It is named as "Opera for Fener" and teases rival team Fenerbahce. The video of the chant on YouTube has been watched more than one million times. It has been observed that even Fenerbahce supporters can not stop themselves joining in when the cheer is sung nearby.[citation needed]
  • 2007 - Slovenian singer Manca Izmajlova covered the original Russian version of the song on her album Slovanska duša (Slavic Soul).
  • 2007 - Swedish-born Greek singer Elena Paparizou covered the French version of the song, "Le temps des fleurs", which was released on her CD-single "Fos" and was featured on the bonus CD on her Yparhi Logos: Platinum Edition album.
  • 2007 - Jamaican Dancehall-Artist Shaggy covers the refrain of "Those Were the Days" in his album Intoxication.
  • 2007 - Vietnamese Singer Ngoc Ha covered the song in her version for Asia DVD 49 as "Nhu la thu vang".
  • 2007 - Latvian instrumental cello rock trio Melo-M included a cover version in their 2007 album Singalongs.[12]
  • 2007 - Brazilian instrumental band Brasov recorded a ska version in their 2007 album Uma Noite em Tuktoyaktuk (in English, "A Night In Tuktoyaktuk").
  • 2007 - Japanese doujin artist Noriko Mitose covered the Japanese version Hana no Kisetsu (lit. Season of Flowers) in her album, Cotton.
  • 2008 - Vietnamese singer Thanh Lan covered the Vietnamese version "Tuoi Thanh Xuan" on her CD Trong Nắng Trong Gió - In The Sun & In The Breeze.
  • 2008 - Bad Boys Blue covered the song on their 2008 album Heart & Soul.
  • 2009 - The German band RotFront covered the song in "Red Mercedes" on their album Emigrantski Raggamuffin
  • 2009 - The American jazz pianist Eyran Katsenelenbogen covered the song in his solo album 88 Fingers
  • 2010 - The Russian countertenor Vitas covered the Russian version of this song on his album Masterpieces of Three Centuries.
  • 2010 - Wilfredo, the comic alter ego of the British comedian Matt Roper, performed the song at the Salento Festival, Italy.[13]
  • 2011 - The Iranian rock band Kiosk covered this song on their 2011 album Outcome of Negotiations.[14]
  • 2012 - Hong Kong canto-pop singer Sherman Chung covered the song in "Shout" on her album SC
  • 2013 - Australian country artist Nia Robertson covered this song on her 2013 album release "The Woman I Am".[15]

Chart performance (Mary Hopkin version)[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Hey Jude" by The Beatles
UK number one single
(Mary Hopkin version)

25 September 1968 – 30 October 1968 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"With a Little Help from My Friends" by Joe Cocker
Preceded by
"Fire" by Arthur Brown
Canadian RPM 100 number-one single
(Mary Hopkin version)

28 October 1968 – 2 November 1968 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Hold Me Tight" by Johnny Nash
Preceded by
"My Special Angel" by The Vogues
US Billboard Easy Listening Singles number-one single
(Mary Hopkin version)

2 November 1968 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell
Preceded by
"Koi no Kisetsu" by Pinky and the Killers
Japanese Oricon Chart number one single
(Mary Hopkin version)

27 January 1969
Succeeded by
"Namida no Kisetsu" by Pinky and the Killers


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  2. ^ Bruce Spizer. "An Apple a Day: Mary Hopkin – Post Card". Adam Forrest. Retrieved 1 June 2013.  "Mary Hopkin's debut single paired "Those Were The Days," a Lithuanian folk song adapted by American Gene Raskin"
  3. ^ "Topic: Дорогой длинною". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "Recording: Дорогой длинною - Alexander Vertinsky". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
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  9. ^ Douglas Farah (13 May 2001). "Oil Gives African Nation a Chance for Change". The Washington Post. Hartford Web Publishing. Retrieved 9 January 2011. "...a far cry from the days of Macias, who on Christmas 1975 executed 150 alleged coup plotters in the national stadium while a band played "Those Were the Days."" 
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