26 January 2014

Those were the days

A few days ago someone I follow tweeted a link to a YouTube file of Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 classic Where Do You Go to My Lovely? I really like that song in its day, and hadn’t heard it for years, so I clicked on the link.

In a sidebar there was a link to another great song of the late 1960s – Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days.

Apart from being great songs, they transport me back to a time (1968-70) when I was working with good people in the newly established Department of Education and Science, and really enjoying doing a second degree part-time at the ANU (1969-72). If you walked into the bar at the old ANU Union these were songs you were likely to hear – often.

Those Were the Days has an interesting provenance. According to the sleeve notes on the Nonesuch vinyl The Odessa Balalaikas: The Art of the Balalaika:

The romance Dorogoi dlinnonu – Down the Long Road (composed by Boris Fomin in the 1920s) became enormously popular in the United States when it was released in an English version, “Those Were the Days”, sung by Mary Hopkin. After travelling incognito to the Soviet Union in the mid-60s, the Beatles, who soon thereafter recorded “Back in the USSR”, wanted to produce a song in the Russian style. Presumably Mary Hopkin received the music from Paul McCartney, but it was actually Gene Raskin who wrote the English text after hearing a rare recording of the piece made by Aleksandr Vertinski in the 1920s.

Those were the days, indeed.

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