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It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism. Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli (1900–1968) and Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky made what were probably the earliest recordings of the song, in 1925 and in 1926 respectively. In the early 1960s Raskin, with his wife Francesca, played folk music around Greenwich Village in New York, including White Horse Tavern. Raskin, who had grown up hearing the song, wrote with his wife new English lyrics to the old Russian music and then copyrighted both music and lyrics in his own name.The Raskins were international performers and had played London's "Blue Angel" every year, always closing their show with the song. Paul McCartney frequented the club and being quite taken with the song he attempted to get several singers or groups (including the early Moody Blues) to record it. Failing at that, after the formation of the Beatles' own Apple Records label, McCartney immediately recorded Mary Hopkin performing the song.
Mary Hopkin's 1968 debut single of "Those Were the Days" (producer, Paul McCartney) became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart. The song also reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It was number one in the very first edition of the foreign singles sales chart launched by the Centre d'Information et de Documentation du Disque. (Wikipedia)