Mary Hopkin appears on Opportunity Knocks

6.00pm, Sunday 5 May 1968 (45 years ago)

The singer Mary Hopkin’s appearance on television talent show Opportunity Knocks was broadcast on this day. Her performance led to a contract with The Beatles’ Apple Records, and the multi-million selling debut single Those Were The Days.

The edition of Opportunity Knocks was shown just two days after Hopkin’s 18th birthday. The programme showcased performances from new acts which were judged by public vote. It was recorded two days before transmission at ABC Television’s studios in Didsbury, Manchester.

The model Twiggy saw Hopkin’s performance on Opportunity Knocks, and suggested to Paul McCartney that the singer might be a good act for Apple to sign.

I was a 17-year-old schoolgirl working at weekends with a group of local boys in a folk/rock band, and after about six months the group split up, so I carried on solo. Then my agent, to my absolute horror, put my name down for an audition for Opportunity Knocks, a good show for hopefuls in the music business but not really the sort of thing I wanted to do. But he persuaded me to go along for experience, so I went and sang a couple of songs; and the next thing I heard was that I’d been chosen for one of the programmes.

Rather reluctantly I made my appearance which, amazingly enough, Twiggy watched. She met with Paul McCartney that following weekend and when Paul was chatting to her about the new record label they were forming, Twiggy mentioned me. About two days later I got a telegram saying, ‘Ring Peter Brown at Apple Records’. It sat on the shelf for three days until my mother insisted I ring him.

I was a great Beatles fan so I’d heard all about the Apple boutique, but I didn’t make any connection between the Beatles and this Peter Brown telegram. So I rang up and was put through to this guy with a Liverpool accent, who invited me to come up to London and sign a contract. Being a cautious young Welsh girl, I thought, “That’s a bit sudden!”, and became a bit evasive, so this guy said, ‘Well, go and ask your mum then!’ I dragged my mother to the telephone and she proceeded to practically drop the thing because he said, ‘Oh, this is Paul McCartney, by the way’! I remember racing down the road to tell all my friends who I’d been talking to. The next day they sent a car for us and off I went with my mum to the big city.

We went to the Dick James Music studio. Paul was in the control room and I did a couple of demos for him – Joan Baez and Donovan songs – broke a guitar string and muttered some swear words into the mike. We had lunch – he took us to the Angus Steak House which we were really impressed by – and I sailed through the day in a haze, painfully shy and totally in awe of Paul. I went back home and about two days later somebody rang and said, ‘Yes, we’d like to sign you’. So I made another trip to London and Paul said, ‘I’ve got a song that might suit you. I found it years ago and gave it to Donovan and it didn’t work out, I gave it to the Moody Blues, they loved it but it didn’t happen, and I’ve been looking for the right sound for it.’ Then he strummed this song called Those Were The Days. I loved it immediately, but I must say that I’d probably have liked anything he would have played me at the time! A lot of people think Paul wrote the song, but he didn’t. Anyway, we recorded it a couple of weeks later, and five weeks after the release, in September 1968, I was number one.

Mary Hopkin
Record Collector, 1988

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