Interview Part 1: Those Were The Days

Recently Jessica invited Mary to sit down with a coffee in front of a microphone. Jessica had a list of questions gathered from the lovely people on social media, and Mary answered until her coffee ran out. We'll be publishing her answers in themed batches. Thank you for your questions everyone!

Part 1: Those Were The Days

To celebrate 50 years since Mary recorded this iconic song, we'll start with the relevant questions.

JLM: Geetesh Kashyap from FB wants to ask about the recording of TWTD, his favourite song, and whether you feel comfortable singing it again, with or without music. He says, "We'd be thankful to her".

MH: It was quite a momentous occasion for me. It was in Abbey Road Studios. There was a full orchestra there, so that was quite intimidating. The song was quite fresh and new to me, even though I'd learnt it, so when we started recording I was very timid about it. Paul would come in and say, "Think about the lyrics and who this person is,' so that helped. I wasn't happy with what I'd done, so he said, "Go home and think about it and we'll try again on Monday.' Which I did. And in the meantime John Lennon rang me at home in Wales and said, "To err is human, to forgive divine. Just try again, you know you'll do it.' And that was so sweet because Paul must have told him that I was nervous and didn't quite get the take. That was such a lovely thing to do.

JLM: So he would have nipped in to listen after you'd gone?

MH: Yes, or Paul had mentioned that I was nervous and he gave me a little ring and pep talk. So I went in on Monday and nailed it, they said... But I was more comfortable with it. Generally the song was about a much older person than I was, I was a little schoolgirl basically. Maybe that's what worked with the song, the fact that I was almost a child, singing an older woman's song. That's what people liked about it. But I felt privileged to have been given that song by Paul.

JLM: Did you sing in front of the orchestra, or did they record and you sang to playback?

MH: I sang along while they were recording it, probably just as a guide vocal for them, and then I went in and recorded it after they'd gone.

JLM: So the orchestra didn't have to come back on Monday.

MH: No! That would have been an expensive exercise. It all worked out in the end.

JLM: Would you feel comfortable singing it again?

MH: Well I sang it a lot in the first year because everywhere I went I was obviously promoting the record, so every single gig and radio show I did was 'Those Were The Days'. So that's pretty much the only song I sang for a year, apart from tours. After that I got entirely, not sick of the song, but just the association with it. So I didn't sing it for many years after that. Once I'd recorded Earth Song I didn't sing 'Those Were The Days' any more in gigs. But I still love the song and we are planning a new version aren't we? A family version. A very understated acoustic version of it.

JLM: When I first heard that song I was shopping with you in Asda and I suddenly said, hang on isn't this you? I think you tried to hide.

MH: I hid behind the groceries, yes. And you hadn't heard the song, you'd never heard the record.

JLM: It's awful really. (Not having heard it, not the song itself!)

MH: No it isn't, it meant I never played it to you.

JLM: Well you don't really pay attention to your parents unless it's relevant.

MH: Well I'm just your Mum aren't I?


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Mary Hopkin Those Were The Days 2018