"Those Were The Days"
B Fomin / G Raskin
Ukranian or Russian, a traditional folk song adapted by Gene Raskin, or a brand new song written by Paul McCartney just for Mary Hopkin ......

Many myths have grown around this melodic song, here on this page I will try and trace the history of this beautiful, piece of music.

If you were to do a search on the Internet for "Those were the days", you would come across very many translations, and different titles. I am sure there are many songs on the Internet that have been translated into numerous languages, but I think 'Days' almost tops the charts, so to speak.

I have been trying to trace this songs history for many years, and on my travels have come across many contradictions, but here is what I have found out.

When I first started making enquiries which was around 1999 the majority of information led me to believe that the melody ( I had no Russian words / lyrics as yet ) was traditional and that the the origins of the melody appeared to be strongly claimed by the Russians and Russian gypsy's consider it their song. The name of this song seems to be "DOROGO' DLINNOYU" and translated means .....

"By a long road (or way)"  or
"Along a long road (or way)" or
"On a long way...

Now in December of 2008 I have been contacted by Darya Davydova.
who is a fan of Vertinsky, ( he was the first to record the Russian song) and has kindly been able to help with the intricacies of the language.

So for the first time ( unless I am corrected again ) the song should be called
Dorogoy Dlinnoyu (
Along a long road)

Dorogoy Dlinnoyu
Verse 1:
Yehali na troyke s bubentsami,
(they were riding in a troika with bells)
A vdali mel'kali ogon'ki.
(and in the distance there were glimmering lights)
Mne b seichas, sokoliki, za vami,
(I'd rather go now with you, my dears)
Dushu bi razveyat' ot toski.
(I'd rather distract my soul from the yearning)

Verse 2:
Tak zhiv'a bez radosti, bez muki
(living this way, without joy, without torture,)
Pomnyu ya ushedshiye goda
(I do remember the past years)
I tvoi serebryanie ruki
(and your silvery hands)
V troyke, uletevshey navsegda...
(in a troika that flew away forever...)

Verse 3:
Dni begut, pechali umnozhaya,
(The days run on, multiplying the sorrows)
Mne tak trudno proshloe zabit'.
(it is so hard for me to forget the past)
Kak-nibud' odnazhdi, dorogaya,
(Some day, my dear,)
Vi menya svezete horonit'.
(you shall take me to bury) -
it is meant that she will take the
dead hero to the cemetery.

Dorogoy dlinnoyu, da noch'yu lunnoyu,
(Along a long road, and on a moonlit night,)
Da s pesney toy, chto vdal' letit, zvenya,
(And with that song that flies
away with jingle-jangle,)
I s toy starinnoyu, toy semistrunnoyu.
(And with that ancient, seven-stringed one)
meant a guitar
Chto po nocham tak muchila menya...
(That tortured me so much at nights...)

Starinniy is not "old" and not "ancient",
but rather something between these two meanings.
For example, I research old Dachas (country houses)
in a place called Malahovka,
and I often refer to them as "starinniye" -
they were built mostly in the 1900s.

With thanks to Darya Davydova
Dorogoy Dlinnoyu
Verse 1:

Ехали на тройке с бубенцами,
А вдали мелькали огоньки.
Мне б сейчас, соколики, за Вами,
Душу бы развеять от тоски.
Verse 2:

Так живя без радости, без муки,
Помню я ушедшие года,
И твои серебряные руки
В тройке, улетевшей навсегда...
Verse 3:

Дни бегут, печали умножая,
Мне так трудно прошлое забыть.
Как-нибудь однажды, дорогая,
Вы меня свезете хоронить

Дорогой длинною, да ночью лунною,
Да с песней той, что вдаль летит, звеня,
И с той старинною, с той семиструнною,
Что по ночам так мучила меня...

Alexander Vertinsky


This was the first Russian lyrics and translation I had sent to me by
Igor Matveyev and they are very similar to the above

Ehali na trojke s bubencami,

A vdali mel'kali ogon'ki. Mne b sejchas, sokoliki, za Vami,
Dushu by razveyat' ot toski.

Dorogoj dlinnoyu, da noch'yu lunnoyu,
Da s pesnej toj, chto vdal' letit zvenya,
Is toj starinnoyu s toj semistrunnoyu,
Chto po nocham tak muchala menya...

Tak zhivya bez radosti, bez muki,
Pomnyu ya ushedshie goda, I tvoi serebryanye ruki V trojke,
uletevshej navsegda... Dorogoj dlinnoyu...

Dni begut, pechali umnozhaya, Mne tak trudno proshloe zabyt'.
Kak-nibud' odnazhdy, dorogaya,
Vy menya svezete horonit'.

Dorogoj dlinnoyu...

And now - the translation.
There are only three verses in the Russian song.
Words in brackets are not in the text but are implied.

As sung by A.Vertinskiy:
(We) Used to ride in a three-horse carriage with bells (tinkling)
And lights were blinking in the distance
I wish I could go with you (again), falcons
To clear my soul off all my grief

   (Going down) that long road on a moonlight night with that
             song that is flying away, ringing
             And with that old seven-string one (guitar)
           That troubled me so much at nights

Living such life without joy and torture,
I recollect the years that passed by
And your silver hands
in that three-horse carriage which went away for good...

Refrain: (same as above)

Days are passing by, multiplying my sorrows,
It's so hard for me to forget the past
And one day the day will come, my dear,
When you are going to bury me...

Refrain: (as above)

I believe some explanation is required.
Three-horse carriages were very popular
in Russia in the last century.
Bells here are not church bells, but small pieces
fastened to the harness over horses'
heads to produce that beautiful tinkling sound.
'Falcons' means not birds but 'young and energetic people'.
Seven-string guitar was very popular in Russia and other
East European countries till the beginning
of pop-music era in mid-60-ies.
We still have many artists (especially gypsies)
here who play 7-string guitars.
'Torture' in the 2nd verse is of course 'sweet torture'
which is brought about  by love

Alexander Vertinsky
My Thanks for the above information to
Igor Matveyev

I still have not come across any authentic sheet music of the time with the composers names and song title next to it but most sources claim it was written by two Russian composers B Fomin (music) and K. Podrevsky (lyrics) at the end of 19th century or in the beginning of 20th century.

Most of the dates i have come across and they vary considerably seem to indicate around 1920...

The first known recording of the song was by Alexander Vertinsky in the 1920's, I found various midi files which claimed to be "The song" but must admit I couldnt really hear the melody that we have grown to love.. I then eventually found a song on a Russian site called "There were days"
("DOROGOy' DLINNOYU") again credited to Fomin & Podrevsky, and sung by Rada and Nikolay Volshaninovs here I first heard the unmistakable melody of "Those Were The Days" I was over the moon, THis page has now been removed from the internet I will look for another...

I discovered also during my research that there is another song, Russian title given as "Darogoi Dli Mayou", calling itself "Dear to Me", this too is supposed to be a version of "Dorogoy Dlinnoyu", this is where it all starts to get very confusing..
More work I think is needed to research these facts...

For now I leave the Russian song and below I continue with ....

The lyrics to the song that we have come to now know and love as "Those Were The Days" were written by an American composer Gene Raskin in the early 1960's. The first known recording I am aware of was by the "Limelighters" in 1963' It has been covered by many artists since, "Sandie Shaw" (now whatever happened to her version) and more recently the "Three Tenors" did an incredible performance of the song.
And Dolly Parton even asked Mary to sing on her recording of "Days..."

New York's White Horse Tavern was famous in the 1960s as a meeting place for folk singers like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Gene Raskin, who also frequented the tavern, wrote this song lamenting the passing of those golden days.

The story of how Paul McCartney came across the song is probably known by most people, but for those who are not aware here it is..

Paul heard Gene and Francesca Raskin singing the song in a club called the "Blue Lamp" in London in the mid 60's, and after 'discovering' Mary Hopkin he remembered this song and suggested it to her, the rest as they say is history, although he did apparently offer the song to others Donovan for example but nobody thought it suited them, that is until Mary came along.

The songs success after Mary recorded it was nothing short of phenomenal, It became a number 1 hit all around the world for her, and was recorded in English, German, Spanish, Italian and French, (I have some of these foreign lyrics on my site), and by the end of the first year of its release it had sold over 5 million records...

Those Were The Days

English text by Gene Raskin

Once upon a time there was a tavern,
Where we used to raise a glass or two.
Remember how we laughed away the hours,
think of all the great things we would do.

Those were the days my friend,
We thought they'd never end,
We'd sing and dance for-ever 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.
Lalala lah lala, lalala lah lala
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days.

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:

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 m

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.

Richard Hewson was asked by Paul Mcartney to arrange the song "Those were the days" and below is an axtract of a wonderful interview with him explaining the work behind the recording.

By Mat Hurwitz

During the early summer of 1968, Apple was preparing its first batch of singles, which was to include a disc by a new discovery of Paul's named Mary Hopkin. Paul recorded Hopkin in June of that year performing a lovely tune he'd heard a few years back in a club by Gene Raskin, "Those Were the Days." Paul decided it was to be scored with some strings, and henceforth turned to his new A & R man, Peter Asher, to come up with an arranger.

"Apple was a funny old place," says Hewson. "It was very haphazard. Nobody really knew what anybody else was doing! Peter didn't know anything about arrangers. All he knew was he knew me, and that I'd been to the Guild Hall and studied classical music. And he thought, 'Okay, so Paul wants some orchestra on this. Richard probably knows how to write classical orchestra arrangements, let's try him.' That's how I got the job, cause they didn't know anybody else. That was lucky for me. If they'd looked around, they could probably have found a real arranger."

It was Hewson's first working job out of college, and would turn into a multi-million selling hit around the world. Hewson actually began working a few years earlier, "moonlighting" as a session player at EMI to make "pocket money" while still a student. "I used to get pulled out occasionally to do sessions, because I had a few connections." [One of his employers at that time, oddly enough, was George Martin!]

To give "Those Were the Days" that "old country" feel, Hewson concoted a simple arrangement consisting of an acoustic guitar, upright bass, tuba, banjo, drums, a clarinet section, violins & violas, trumpets and an Hungarian instrument called a "cembalon". "It was an unusual instrument played with hammers, like a dulcimer. There was only one guy in England who could play one - one of my professors, Gilbert Webster. That's who's on that recording." The song was topped off by the addition of a boys choir.

Hewson began working regularly for Apple through 1969, scoring Hopkin's album, Post Card, as well as her next single, "Goodbye," written and produced by Paul. The latter featured "all violas, 12 of them in fact, with no other classical instruments. That was a first!"

For now the story ends, but I will keep searching...

Pat Richmond
Copyright 2008

While I was searching the net I found a copy of this sheet music below,
I contacted Francie to ask if I could use it and she very kindly agreed.

A note from Francie Schwartz

Gene is an old and very dear friend of my family. I have not only the sheet music, but the cover art signed by Gene himself.

I would be happy to help in any way I can. Gene told me that he performed the song in cabaret when he and his wife Frances were young, and it was based on a classic Russian folk tune.

Dick James brought the song to Paul for Mary Hopkin, and I happened
to be there when he came to Abbey Road to give it to him.

Francie Schwartz

Below is an example of many kind emails I have had from
so many people helping with my research into this,
not one email, gave the same explanation...

Dear Pat,

I visited your site. You did a lot of research. Good job. Thank you for mentioning me on your site. I just want to tell you the following: I took the names of the authors from an insert of an audio tape "Famous songs of Russian Gypsy", where this song is beautifully performed by Nikolay Erdenko. This song was also in the repertoire of such well known soviet singers as Nani Bregvadze and Edita Pieha. Many outside of the Soviet Union became familiar with this song also due to the American movie "The Brothers Karamazov" (1958), where it was sung by Maria Schell. The French singer Dalida sang this song  with the title of "Quelli erano giorni"
Regards,   Gregory  

My thanks for help in this article go to:
Gregory Ofman, Igor Matveyev and Francie Schwartz

Pat Richmond
Copyright 2008

Eugene Raskin, sadly died in July 2004. He was 94 years old
Raskin died at his home in Manhattan, his son, Michael, told The New York Times. his interests range
d from music and playwriting to architectural scholarship, he was an adjunct professor at Columbia from 1936 to 1976 He was the author of the books "Architecturally Speaking," "Sequel to Cities" and "Architecture and People."

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