Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mary Hopkin – "Those Were the Days" (1968)

Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I told you about the 1924 Russian romance song, “Dorogoj dlinnoju,” which was given English lyrics in 1962 by architecture professor and folksinger Gene Raskin.  He called his version of the song “Those Were the Days.”  (Scroll down if you missed that post.)

Raskin and his wife – they called themselves Gene & Francesca – performed in folk clubs in North America and Europe for years.  From 1962 on, they usually closed their shows by singing “Those Were the Days.”

In 1968, the supermodel Twiggy told Paul McCartney that he should sign Mary Hopkin – a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Welsh teenager who Twiggy had seen perform on television – to the Beatles’ new record label, Apple Records. 

Paul McCartney and Mary Hopkin
When McCartney caught Gene & Francesca’s show at London’s Blue Angel club later that year, he thought that “Those Were the Days” would be a good song for Mary Hopkin to record.

Hopkin’s recording of that song, which was produced by McCartney, was the third single released on Apple Records.   (The first Apple single was “Hey Jude.”  Only one copy was pressed of the second Apple single – a Frank Sinatra recording called “The Lady Is a Champ – But Beautiful,” which was recorded as a gift for Ringo Starr’s wife, Maureen Starkey.)  

“Those Were the Days” was a #1 hit in the UK, but only made it to #2 in the U.S. , where it sold 1.5 million copies.  (Ironically, “Hey Jude” was the single that held down the top spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” at the time.)

Hopkin not only recorded “Those Were the Days” in English, but also in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.  (The song made it to only #15 in Italy, but was a #1 hit in France, Germany, and Spain.)   

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“Those Were the Days” was recorded in a number of other languages languages by dozens of artists — ranging from Bing Crosby to Roger Whittaker to Dolly Parton to Wanda Jackson to Shaggy.

The song generated enough royalties for Gene Raskin to buy a sailboat, a Porsche, and a home on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

President Francisco Macías Nguema
It’s not clear whether the then-President of the small African nation of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, paid royalties to Raskin when he had soldiers dressed in Santa Claus execute about 150 of his political opponents in a soccer stadium on Christmas Eve, 1975, as “Those Were the Days” played over the stadium public-address system.

Nguema later changed the country’s motto to “There is no other God than Macías Nguema.”

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Here’s Mary Hopkin’s recording of “Those Were the Days”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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