Those Were the Days (song)
|"Those Were the Days"|
|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", lit. "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.
Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli (1900–1968) and Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky made what were probably the earliest recordings of the song, in 1925 and in 1926 respectively. The song was promptly banned by Stalin in 1927.
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. 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 lyric (which is not an English translation of the Russian lyric) 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  a new English lyric to the old Russian music and then copyrighted both music and lyric 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, after the formation of the Beatles' own Apple Records label, recorded Mary Hopkin performing the song. The song was eventually recorded in over twenty languages and by many different artists, including Gene & Francesca themselves, 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. (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.
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 US, 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 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.
McCartney also recorded Hopkin singing "Those Were The Days" in four other languages for release in their respective countries:
- In Spain, Que 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 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 match 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.
On Christmas 1975, the President of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, had 150 alleged coup plotters executed in the national stadium while Mary Hopkin's recording of "Those Were the Days" was played over the PA system.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2013)|
- 1959Theodore Bikel recorded this song, in the original Russian language. –
- 1962American folk group The Limeliters released the song on a 1962 LP called Folk Matinee. This recording was later reissued on a 1968 album. –
- 1968The 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. –
- 1968The 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. –
- 1969Gene & Francesca recorded the song on their album Hello Love on Tetragrammaton. –
- 1969Chris Connor recorded the song for her album Softly and Swingin' which was released only in Japan. The track was left off the final album release. Connor's estate preserved an original master tape of this album on cassette which includes this track and the track "Didn't We?" –
- 1969Bing Crosby recorded the song for his album Hey Jude / Hey Bing! –
- 1969Roger Whittaker recorded the song for his album This Is Roger Whittaker –
- 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.
- 1995Cynthia Lennon –
- 2005Il Folklorista recorded "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. –
- 2005American 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. Parton's recording featured backing vocals by Mary Hopkin. –
- 2007Jamaican dancehall artist Shaggy put the refrain of "Those Were the Days" in his album Intoxication. –
- 2007Latvian instrumental cello rock trio Melo-M included a version in their 2007 album Singalongs. –
- 2008Bad Boys Blue covered the song on their album Heart & Soul. –
- 2010Wilfredo, the comic alter ego of the British comedian Matt Roper, performed the song at the Salento Festival, Italy. –
- 2011The Iranian rock band Kiosk recorded this song on their 2011 album Outcome of Negotiations. –
- 2013Australian country artist Nia Robertson recorded the song on her album The Woman I Am. –
Chart performance (Mary Hopkin version)
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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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...a far cry from the days of Macias, who on Christmas 1975 executed 150 alleged coup plotters in the national stadium while an amplifier system played "Those Were the Days."
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