"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.
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 chart-topping hit in much of the Northern Hemisphere. 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.
Mary Hopkin's version was released as "Kanashiki Tenshi" (悲しき天使?, lit. "Sad Angel") in Japan.
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. 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, 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 number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart. In the US, Hopkin's recording reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 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 which was unusual for a top-ten pop record, including balalaika, clarinet, hammered 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:
"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 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 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 compilations because Apple never allows its original recordings to be used.
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 - Violetta Villas - "Znowu Ciebie mam" (in Polish). Her version caused controversy in Poland as she used lyrics 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". Also in 1968 Halina Kunicka recorded "To były piękne dni" ("Those were beautiful days") in Polish.
1968 - Turkish versions from 1968 and following years:
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".
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.
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)."
1969 - Mexican version by Los Rockin Devils band, entitled "Esos Fueron Los Dias."
196? - Georgian Nani Bregvadze (Russian, "Dorogoi dlinnoyu", USSR) (available on the 1971 album Нани Брегвадзе, Мелодия 33СМ03055-56)
1969 - Brazilian singer Joelma sung Portuguese version of the song, called "Aqueles Tempos (Those Days)".
1969 - Teréz Harangozó (Hungarian version: "Azok a szép napok").
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."
1971 - Rosa Morena (Spain) sang a Spanish rumba version of the song called "Qué tiempo tan feliz", together with a music video.
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 - Czech singer Zdenka Lorencová covered the song in Czech entitled "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 - 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 number 22 in the UK Albums Chart.
1989 - Hungarian band Dolly Roll covered the song in Hungarian with different lyrics from the version by Teréz Harangozó. ("Ábrándos szép napok")
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.
1994 - In the 70's the song was translated into Bengali by Bengali Folk 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.
1995 - The Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers and 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. The Clancy Brothers had been friends of Gene Raskin in the 1960s and frequented the White Horse Tavern.
1996 - British and American comedian Tracey Ullman utilized the composition (with some original lyrics added) in the episode Nostalgia from her HBOsketch 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"
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 - 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.
2006 - "Those Were the Days" was converted to a chant by Çarşı, a supporter group of the Turkish football team Beşiktaş 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.
2007 - Slovenian singer Manca Izmajlova covered the original Russian version of the song on her album Slovanska duša (Slavic Soul).
Kay, Hilary (1992). Rock & Roll Memorabilia: A History of Rock Momentos With over 600 Illustrations. Prentice Hall. p. 174. ISBN978-0671-77931-3. "The Hopkin single, a McCartney-produced traditional Russian folk song, knocked Apple 1 ("Hey Jude") off the U.K. top slot."
Spizer, Bruce. "An Apple a Day: Mary Hopkin – Post Card". Beatlesnews.com. Retrieved 1 June 2013. "Mary Hopkin's debut single paired "Those Were The Days," a Lithuanian folk song adapted by American Gene Raskin"