About The Song
The origins of the melody appear to be strongly claimed by the Russians, and Russian gypsies 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.” Some sources claim it was written by two Russian composers – B. Fomin (music) and K. Podrevsky (lyrics) at the end of the 19th century or in the beginning of 20th century.
In 1962, Gene Raskin took the melody and wrote English lyrics to it. It was popularized in the US by the folk trio The Limeliters.
In 1965, Paul McCartney saw Raskin and his wife perform this in a London club. McCartney remembered the performance 3 years later, when The Beatles formed Apple Records. In 1968, British model Twiggy telephoned McCartney about a singer who performed on the UK TV program Opportunity Knocks (the US had a similar TV show in the ’90s – Star Search). Three-time winner Mary Hopkin was a 17-year-old from Wales who had people talking about her performances. McCartney returned to London and auditioned Hopkin. He was impressed by her voice and recommended that she record “an American folk song” that he heard a few years earlier, “Those Were the Days.”
Mary Hopkin’s 1968 debut single of “Those Were the Days”, which was produced by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, and arranged by Richard Hewson, became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart and on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. The song also reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, behind “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. It was number one in the first edition of the French National Hit Parade launched by the Centre d’Information et de Documentation du Disque. The song was featured on the US version of the debut album Post Card.
In the UK, Apple Records was introduced to the public by a boxed set of their first four singles — “Hey Jude,” “Those Were the Days,” “Thingumybob” (a TV theme song written by McCartney), and “Sour Milk Sea” (a song sung by Jackie Lomax and written/produced by George Harrison).