'Those Were The Days' is a song that has been associated with Mary Hopkin for 50 years. To celebrate, Mary has recorded a new version, intimate and acoustic, with sparse accompaniment.
Mary first recorded 'Those Were The Days' in 1968, after being signed up to Apple Records by Paul McCartney.
Recorded in May and released on August 30th, it shot to number one with several countries within a couple of weeks.
Mary's new recording portrays the song as it would be heard in a folk club, highlighting her voice, the story and the haunting melody. As the older woman looking back on her life, Mary now contrasts with the 18-year-old who was fresh from school.
"The recording was quite a momentous occasion for me. It was in Abbey Road Studios. There was a full orchestra there, which was quite intimidating. The song was 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.' 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.' 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.
"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."
The new recording was prompted by the 50th anniversary of that original recording. Jessica, Mary's daughter, asked her if she would like to revisit the song. They agreed that it would be a stripped-down version, with sparse guitars. While Mary loves the original arrangement by Richard Hewson, she said "I wanted to perform it in a quieter, more reflective way."
The recording process is far removed from how it was done in 1968, and is truly a family operation. Jessica recorded piano and guitars (engineered by her partner Christian). Mary recorded her vocals at her home with Jess. Morgan, in New York, added fretless bass and mixed the track. For good measure, it was mastered in South Wales by Donal at Hafod, who has mastered MHM releases since 2010.
Our CD release includes re-recordings of 'Those Were The Days' and 'Goodbye'. These were made after Mary left Apple, with her then-husband, Tony Visconti. Tony transcribed Richard Hewson's original Apple arrangements. He played the bouzouki to represent the original cymbalom. The children's choir were represented by Mary and Suzy Lynch, who were sped up to sound much younger.
The recordings were made for compilations, and were contracted to K-Tel, released on tapes, vinyl and even 8-track at the time. However, since the emergence of CDs and digital releases, the two tracks have appeared on numerous compilations, and all out of contract and unauthorised, meaning that Mary and others on the re-recordings do not get royalties.
To avoid long and costly legal action, Mary Hopkin Music released these two tracks digitally in 2014, with new artwork by Mary to identify them, and they are available on all download and streaming services (the ones that pay royalties!).
The CD also includes a re-mastered track from Live At The Royal Festival Hall 1972. Mary performed as support to Ralph McTell. Somehow this got recorded and we released the album in 2005. We sent it for remastering, removing Mary's spoken intro, and have included it here. Some hiss exists, we can't do much about it but we are very glad to hear Mary sing live. Backing her up are Brian Willoughby on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass, The Pop Arts String Quartet and conductor Tony Visconti.
TWTD was number 1 on the UK Singles Chart.
Number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (held off no 1 by Hey Jude)
Number 1 on Canada RPM Singles Chart
Number 1 Germany
Number 1 Switzerland
Sold 1.5m copies in USA
Awarded Gold Disk by RIAA
Global sales 8m.
Mary also recorded: