Those Were the Days (song)

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"Those Were the Days"
Single by Mary Hopkin
B-side "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
  • 26 August 1968 (US)
  • 30 August 1968 (UK)
Format 7" single
Recorded mid-July 1968
Genre Folk[1][2]
Length 5:05
Label Apple
Producer(s) Paul McCartney
Certification Gold (RIAA)[3]
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
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[4] and in 1926[5] 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 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.[6] 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. (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]

Although the song was popularized in the early 1960s by The Limeliters,[7] 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 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.[8] In the Netherlands, it topped the charts for two consecutive weeks.[9] 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:

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 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 "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 cover of "Those Were the Days" was played over the PA system.[10]

Other versions[edit]

  • 1959 - Theodore Bikel recorded this song, in the original Russian language.[11]
  • 1962 - American folk group The Limeliters recorded the song and later released it on a 1968 album.[12]
  • 1967 - UK singer Engelbert Humperdinck covered the song on his 1967 album The Last Waltz.[13]
  • 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"[14] and had a huge hit in Japan, Canada, and Greece with this song.
  • 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.
  • 1969 - Chris 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?"
  • 1969 - Bing Crosby recorded the song for his album "Hey Jude/Hey Bing!"[15]
  • 1969 - Roger Whittaker recorded the song for his album This Is Roger Whittaker[16]
  • 1995 - Cynthia Lennon
  • 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.[17]
  • 2005 - Dolly Parton, an American country singer-songwriter, recorded an album covering folk and pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s. This was the opening song and title track to her album Those Were The Days.
  • 2007 - Jamaican dancehall artist Shaggy covers the refrain of "Those Were the Days" in his album Intoxication.
  • 2007 - Latvian instrumental cello rock trio Melo-M included a cover version in their 2007 album Singalongs.[18]
  • 2010 - Wilfredo, the comic alter ego of the British comedian Matt Roper, performed the song at the Salento Festival, Italy.[19]
  • 2011 - The Iranian rock band Kiosk covered this song on their 2011 album Outcome of Negotiations.[20]
  • 2013 - Australian country artist Nia Robertson covered the song on her album The Woman I Am.[21]

Chart performance (Mary Hopkin version)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kay, Hilary (1992). Rock & Roll Memorabilia: A History of Rock Momentos 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. 
  2. ^ 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 
  3. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – Those Were the Days". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Topic: Дорогой длинною". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "Recording: Дорогой длинною - Alexander Vertinsky". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Perrone, Pierre (18 June 2004). Gene Raskin – Singer, songwriter and architectural scholar at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 December 2008). The Independent. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Those Were The Days (original) – The Limeliters 1962.wmv". YouTube. 23 April 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 118. 
  9. ^ a b " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  10. ^ Farah, Douglas (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 an amplifier system played "Those Were the Days." 
  11. ^ Edwards, David; Eyries, Patrice; Callahan, Mike (27 December 2005). "Elektra Album Discography, Part 2 – EKL-100/EKS-7100 Series (1956-1967)". Elektra. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "The Limeliters". 9 March 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Erlewine, Michael. "Engelbert Humperdinck – The Last Waltz". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Vicky Leandros -Le temps des fleurs". YouTube. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  15. ^ Nathan, Dave. "Bing Crosby – Hey Jude/Hey Bing!". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "This Is... by Roger Whittaker". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Gigi D'Agostino – Some Experiments (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Melo-M – Singalongs". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "wilfredo in italy – salento festival". YouTube. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Click on the album covers to order the CD / MP3 Download on iTunes". Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS Pre 1989 Part 4". Hung Medien. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  23. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  24. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  25. ^ CHART NUMBER 611 – Saturday, October 19, 1968 at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2006). CHUM. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5815." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  27. ^ "Billboard – Hits Of The World". Billboard 80 (49): 68. 7 December 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  28. ^ a b "Billboard – Hits Of The World". Billboard 80 (47): 78. 23 November 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  29. ^ "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 60" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  30. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  31. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Those Were the Days". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  32. ^ a b "I singoli più venduti del 1968" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "Japan #1 DISKS by Oricon Hot Singles" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  34. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Mary Hopkin - Those Were The Days search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  35. ^ "Billboard – Hits Of The World". Billboard 80 (50): 68. 14 December 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  36. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days". VG-lista. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  37. ^ "Billboard – Hits Of The World". Billboard 60 (48): 88. 30 November 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  38. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  39. ^ "Billboard – Hits Of The World". Billboard 80 (46): 71. 30 November 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  40. ^ " – Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  41. ^ "Archive Chart: 1968-09-28" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  42. ^ a b "Post Card – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  43. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending NOVEMBER 9, 1968 at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 September 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  44. ^ RECORD WORLD 1968 at the Wayback Machine (archived 23 July 2004). Record World. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  45. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 21/11/2009". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  46. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1968" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  47. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 10, No. 19, January 06 1969". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  48. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1968" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  49. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1968" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  50. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1968". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  51. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1968 at the Wayback Machine (archived 14 August 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2014.

External links[edit]