Those Were the Days (song)

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"Those Were the Days"
A-side label of UK single
Single by Mary Hopkin
from the album Post Card
B-side"Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Released30 August 1968[1]
StudioEMI, London
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"
GenreEasy listening
Sandie Shaw singles chronology
"Those Were The Days"
"Monsieur Dupont"

"Those Were the Days" is a song credited to Gene Raskin, who put a new English lyric to the Russian romance song "Дорогой длинною" (Romance transliteration "Dorogoy dlinnoyu", 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. It also deals with tavern activities, which include drinking, singing and dancing.

The Welsh singer Mary Hopkin covered "Those Were the Days" as her debut single in 1968. Produced by Paul McCartney of the Beatles and arranged by Richard Hewson, the cover became a number one hit in the UK and Canada, and it also reached number two in the US on the Billboard Hot 100, behind "Hey Jude" by the Beatles. It was number one in the first edition of the French National Hit Parade launched by the Centre d'Information et de Documentation du Disque.[4] The song was featured on the US version of the debut album Post Card.

Early history[edit]

Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli (1900–1968) and Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky made what were probably the earliest recordings of the song, in 1925[5] and 1926[6] respectively.

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.

Later history[edit]

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, and his wife wrote[7] new English lyrics to the old Russian music and then copyrighted both music and lyrics in his own name.[8] The Limeliters subsequently released a recording of the song on their 1962 LP Folk Matinee.[9] 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.[10] Failing at that, after the formation of the Beatles' own Apple Records label, McCartney immediately recorded Mary Hopkin performing the song at Abbey Road Studios in London.[11] 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."[12] The song was eventually recorded in over twenty languages and by many different artists, including Gene and Francesca.

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.[13] In the Netherlands, it topped the charts for two consecutive weeks.[14] 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.[15]

McCartney also recorded Hopkin singing "Those Were the Days" in other languages for release in their respective countries:

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

The UK and United States recording's B-side was Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!", which had been a United States number-one 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 Frank Sinatra's "The Lady Is a Tramp", 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.[citation needed]

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 Hopkin recording of "Those Were the Days".[16]

The tune of "Those Were the Days" is used for the Republic of Ireland football chant "Come On You Boys in Green".[17]

In 2011, Hopkin's version of the song was used by Nando's South Africa in a satirical advertisement featuring Robert Mugabe as the 'Last Dictator Standing'. The advert was axed quickly, due to controversy and condemnation from pro-Mugabe loyalists.[18]

Charts (Mary Hopkin version)[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[48] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Notable recordings[edit]

  • 1968: The French version of the song, "Le temps des fleurs", was popularized by the international recording star Dalida following Hopkin's success. Dalida's single debuted at number 1 on the French charts. She released an Italian version in November 1968.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miles, Barry (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London: Omnibus Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-7119-8308-3.
  2. ^ Kay, Hilary (1992). Rock & Roll Memorabilia: A History of Rock Mementos With over 600 Illustrations. Prentice Hall. p. 174. ISBN 978-0671-77931-3. The Hopkin single, a McCartney-produced traditional Russian folk song, knocked Apple 1 ("Hey Jude") off the U.K. top slot.
  3. ^ Spizer, Bruce. "An Apple a Day: Mary Hopkin – Post Card". Retrieved 1 June 2013. Mary Hopkin's debut single paired "Those Were The Days," a Lithuanian folk song adapted by American Gene Raskin
  4. ^ a b "An Industry Report on France". Billboard. 14 July 1973. p. 42. ISSN 0006-2510.
  5. ^ "Topic: Дорогой длинною" [Topic: By the long road]. SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  6. ^ "Recording: Дорогой длинною - Alexander Vertinsky". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  7. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. Secker & Warburg. p. 455.
  8. ^ Perrone, Pierre (18 June 2004). "Gene Raskin – Singer, songwriter and architectural scholar". The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008.
  9. ^ "Those Were The Days (original) – The Limeliters 1962.wmv". YouTube. 23 April 2010. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  10. ^ Engelhardt, Kristofer (2010). Beatles Deeper Undercover. Collector's Guide Publishing, Incorporated. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-926-59209-1.
  11. ^ Flans, Robyn (11 April 2015). "Classic Track: "Those Were the Days," Mary Hopkin". Mix. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  12. ^ Hill, Randall (26 November 2018). "'Those Were the Days' — Mary Hopkin, December 1968 - Senior Life - December 2018 - Florida". Viera Voice. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 118.
  14. ^ a b "Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  15. ^ Engelhardt, Kristofer (2010). Beatles Deeper Undercover. Collector's Guide Publishing, Incorporated. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-926-59209-1.
  16. ^ Cronjé, Suzanne (1976). Equatorial Guinea, the forgotten dictatorship: forced labour and political murder in central Africa. Anti-Slavery Society. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-900918-05-6.
  17. ^ "Euro karaoke: how to sing along with the fans". UEFA. 20 June 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Nando's axes Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe 'dictator' advert". BBC News. 2 November 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS Pre 1989 Part 4". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  20. ^ "Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5815." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  23. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 80, no. 49. 7 December 1968. p. 68. ISSN 0006-2510.
  24. ^ a b "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 80, no. 47. 23 November 1968. p. 78. ISSN 0006-2510.
  25. ^ Ehnert, Günter, ed. (1990). Hit Bilanz: Deutsche Chart Singles 1956–1980. Hamburg: Taurus Press. p. 101.
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Those Were the Days". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  27. ^ "Japan #1 DISKS by Oricon Hot Singles". (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 26 December 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  28. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 39, 1968" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  29. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. 13 June 1970. p. 51.
  30. ^ "Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days". VG-lista. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  31. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 60, no. 48. 30 November 1968. p. 88. ISSN 0006-2510.
  32. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. 16 November 1968.
  33. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  34. ^ "Hits of the World". Billboard. Vol. 80, no. 46. 30 November 1968. p. 71. ISSN 0006-2510.
  35. ^ "Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  36. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  37. ^ a b "Post Card – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  38. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending NOVEMBER 9, 1968". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012.
  39. ^ "100 Top Pops" (PDF). Record World. 2 November 1981. p. 25. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  40. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 18 March 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Mary Hopkin"
  41. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 21/11/2009". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  42. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1968" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  43. ^ "The RPM 100 Top Singles of 1968". RPM. Vol. 10, no. 19. Library and Archives Canada. 6 January 1969. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  44. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1968" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  45. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1968" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  46. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1968". The Longbored Surfer. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  47. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1968". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012.
  48. ^ "American single certifications – Mary Hopkin – Those Were the Days". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  49. ^ "From the Music Capitals of the World". Billboard. Vol. 80, no. 47. 23 November 1968. p. 75. ISSN 0006-2510.

External links[edit]