Whenever I pass by Lennon’s Bar in Onslow Road in Southampton, I think of the song “Those Were the Days”. So for my Music Monday today, I present 5 different versions, so click on any of the underlined blue names to hear a YouTube track with video:
I first heard the song sung by Mary Hopkin when it went to No1 in the UK Charts in 1968. The Welsh folk-singer was one of the first to record on The Beatles‘ Apple label and it was produced by Paul McCartney. The words on this version are credited to Gene Raskin.
However the tune was originally from an old Russian folk song called “By the Long Road” (Dorogoi Dlinnoyu). Composed by Boris Fomin with words by the poet Konstantin Podrevsky. It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism. So more-or less about the same thing and why it haunts me. The most popular version sung in Russian, is by Sergey Lazarev. The first recording of the song was made by Alexander Vertinsky in 1926.
After the Berlin wall came down in November 1989, I went to visit some British and American friends of mine working in Berlin. We went to a nightclub in East Berlin and Those were the Days by Mary Hopkin was played repeatedly after every few records.
Later in 1992, while I was working on the Algarve in Portugal, I went to a festival in Portimão and saw The Leningrad Cowboys, a Finnish rock band, perform their version in English. If you click on their name the short video that accompanies it is a real treat.
I think my favourite version has to be by The Paganini Duo, a gypsy band in Australia who play the traditional folk version with a violin.
A more recent cover, is sung movingly by Cynthia Lennon with a backdrop of Beatles photos. So, we have come full circle now to Lennon‘s – I doubt if you will find me in the club now, but “those were the days”.