Those were the days

Those were the days

POP MUSIC GENRE  ∙  FOLK  ∙  Soul R’n’B  ∙  Rock  ∙  Pop song  ∙  Rap  ∙  World music  ∙



10 peculiar themes from the 1960s

When he delivers a song that later becomes popular, the singer-songwriter is just its creator and first performer, he has no control over how others will fix it and the song's later life is quite another story.

  1960  ∙  Where have all the flowers gone  (Pete Seeger)  ∙  1961  ∙  She moved through the fair  (Irish trad.)  ∙  The lion sleeps tonight  (the Tokens)  ∙  1964  ∙  House of the rising sun  (USA 1933)  ∙  1965  ∙  Subterranean homesick blues  (Bob Dylan)  ∙  1966  ∙  Hey Joe  (Bill Roberts1962)  ∙  1967  ∙  Without her  (Harry Nilsson)  ∙  Suzanne  (Leonard Cohen)  ∙  1968  ∙  THOSE WERE THE DAYS  (USSR 1925)  ∙  1969  ∙  Streets of London  (Ralph McTell) 


THOSE WERE THE DAYS - A 1968 world hit with a little help from the Beatles and USSR folk music

'Dorogoi dlinnoyu' (By the long road) is a Soviet song composed in 1924 by Boris Fomin on nostalgic lyrics of the poet Konstantin Podrevsky. It was recorded in 1925 by Tamara Tsereteli and 1926 by Alexander Vertinsky. It became popular in the USSR, remained a classic over the next decades and was featured in the 1953 British/French movie 'Innocents in Paris' (by Gordon Parry) in a Cabaret scene where the original 1924 Russian lyrics was sung by Ludmila Lopato, a singer who had been mentored by Vertinsky upon her arrival in Paris where her family settled in 1929.


By the long road (USSR folk song)

1925  ∙  Tamara Tsereteli  ∙  1926  ∙  Aleksander Vertinsky  ∙  1953  ∙  Ludmila Lopato  (movie ‘Innocents in Paris’) 

Eugene Raskin (1909-2004) was born in the Bronx, New York, he was a trained architect and university teacher and also a dedicated playwright, novelist and musician. He and his wife formed the Gene & Francesca duo, who sang popular world folk songs in Greenwich Village clubs and released a 78 rpm album in the early 50s and two 33 rpm LPs in 1958-59. In the early 60s, Raskin wrote his own lyrics in English for the 1924 Russian classic, named it ‘Those Were The Days’ and copyrighted both the lyrics and the music - deceitfully as of the latter - in his own name. The song was adopted by the then famous entertainers' US trio The Limeliters who recorded it in 1962.


Those were the days: Eugene Raskin, Gene & Francesca, the Limeliters

∙  1962  ∙  Those were the days (The Limeliters)  ∙

Paul McCartney bought the related rights from Raskin in 1967 as the first venture deal for Apple Records, the company that the Beatles were then in the process of launching. The song was entrusted to two female singers: Mary Hopkin, the 17-year-old Welsh winner of the recent ITV talent show 'Opportunity Knocks', and Sandie Shaw, the 20-year-old winner of the 1967 Eurovision contest. Both singers released their own version of the song in 5 languages (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) in early 1968. In UK, the Mary Hopkin version was the most successful and is nowadays remembered as the original.


Those were the days : Mary Hopkin with the Beatles

MARY HOPKIN   1968  ∙  Those were the days  ∙  Cétait le temps des fleurs  ∙  Quelli erano giorni  ∙  Qué tiempo tan feliz  ∙  An jenem Tag  ∙  SANDY SHAW    1968  ∙  Those were the days  ∙  Cétait le temps des fleurs  ∙  Quelli erano giorni  ∙  Qué tiempo tan feliz  ∙  An jenem Tag  ∙

Later in 1968, Dalida also recorded the song in 3 languages, Gigliola Cinquetti in 2 languages and Vicky Leandros issued a 4th French version and Gelú a 4th Spanish version. Soon thereafter, the German bass-baritone Ivan Rebroff released a new Russian version with Raskin’s lyrics translated into Russian. Globally, 'Those were the days' sold close to 10 million units in 1968-69, and it was later covered by more than 250 artists worldwide. Rumour has it that one of the interested disc labels discovered in 1973 (!) that Raskin was not the composer of the song but merely its lyricist, and thereupon stopped paying him the related royalty rights. As the Russian proverb goes, 'New, that's well forgotten old' (Vso novoye - khorosho zabytoye staroye).

1968  ∙  Gelú (Spanish)  ∙  Gigliola Cinquetti (Italian)  ∙  Dalida (French)  ∙  Vicky Leandros (French)  ∙  1969  ∙   Ivan Rebroff (Russian)  ∙   Shuly Natan (Israel)  ∙  etc..


1924 lyrics by Konstantin Podrevsky


(1) Riding on the troika with the tinklers, wow; And afar were flickering the lights; I would like, my falcons, to follow you now; From the sadness clear the soul I might. ..Chorus: With the road long and steep, with the night so light, moonlit, And with the song, that in the distance rings and flies, And with that old dear thing, with that seven string, That had tormented me during the nights. (2) So I live without joy and torment; I remember bygone years and days; And your all in silver moonlit hands In the troika; forever flown away. (Chorus) (3) Days are running, sadness multiplying; It's so hard for me to forget the past; Somehow, one day, my darling; You will take me for a ride, my last. (Chorus)


1962 Lyrics by Eugene Raskin


(1) Once upon a time there was a tavern; Where we used to raise a glass or two; Remember how we laughed away the hours; And dreamed of all the great things we would do. ..Chorus: Those were the days my friend; We thought they'd never end; We'd sing and dance forever and a day; We'd live the life we choose; We'd fight and never lose; For we were young and sure to have our way. (2)  Then the busy years went rushing by us; We lost our starry notions on the way; If by chance I'd see you in the tavern; We'd smile at one another and we'd say. (Chorus) (3) Just tonight I stood before the tavern; Nothing seemed the way it used to be; In the glass I saw a strange reflection; Was that lonely woman really me? (Chorus) (4) Through the door there came familiar laughter; I saw your face and heard you call my name; Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser; For in our hearts the dreams are still the same. (Chorus)