The Rembrandts turn TV series theme song into a hit record
The band is spending some of the summer on tour to plug its hot single.
By Fred Shuster, Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles, Calif. – The season’s most unlikely novelty hit started life as a 42-second musical snippet treated for a TV comedy series.
When radio stations across the country began taping the itsy-bitsy theme from NBC-TV’s “Friends” and looping those 42 seconds into a full-length three-minute single, the duo that played and sang the suddenly popular song leapt into action.
But it was almost too late for the Los Angeles and Minneapolis-based Rembrandts to benefit from all the fuss. The band — singer-guitarists Phil Solem and Valley native Danny Wilde — had completed their third disc, “L.P.,” without including the song. And almost 300 album sleeves were printed with no mention of “I’ll Be There for You,” the theme from “Friends.”
The song soared to No. 1 in Top 40 radio play on the Radio & Records’ airplay charts. Meanwhile. “Friends” is in reruns on TV until September.
“It was in the (airplay) charts before we even recorded it,” said Wilde, referring to the fact that some disc jockeys had in effect created their own single out of the song straight Off TV.
“Radio stations were getting calls from kids asking who did the song and where they could buy it.” Wilde continued. “The record company was getting pressure for us to do a version of it. So we went into the studio, did a longer version, and stripped it into the album as a bonus track.”
“I’ll Be There for You” is the last track on the Rembrandts’ “L.P.” (East- West/EEG). And if the sleeve doesn’t mention the song. a sticker on the front of the CD package probably does.
The band is spending some of the summer as the tour opener for Sheryl Crow.
The video for “I’ll Be There for You” is on regular rotation on MTV and VH-1. The lively clip features actors Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and other members of the “Friends” cast clowning around with the Rembrandts and pretending to play their instruments.
The Rembrandts: I’ll Be There for You (official video) – Friends theme song
Getting the Rembrandts involved with “I’ll Be There for You”
The album version of the song is credited to six people: “Friends” co-executive producers Marta Kauffman and David Crane; Michael Skloff; lyricist Allee Willis; and the Rembrandts. Skloff wrote the original 42 seconds.
It was Kevin Bright, one of the show’s three co-executive producers and a longtime Rembrandts fan, who asked Wilde and Solem if they would be interested in seeing the “Friends” pilot last September with a view toward recording the theme.
“We liked it, went into the studio and cut it on a Saturday, and it was on the TV show the following Tuesday,” Wilde recalled.
Unlike some radio outlets across the country, influential top-40 station KIlS-FM (102.7) didn’t create a homemade single looped from the TV show.
“We waited for the CD,” said KIIS music director Tracy Austin. “At first, I was concerned the song wouldn’t have a long life with the TV season ending. But interest increased because of reruns. People are definitely digging the show and like the song.”
She said, however, the tune could end up “a short-lived novelty record tied to the show. We call it ‘The Theme From “Friends”‘ on the air.”
The fact that there are no immediate plans to release a single of the song has already worked in the Rembrandts’ favor in terms of CD purchases, Austin said.
“They’re trying to force album sales by not releasing it as a single,” she said.
More than just the Friends theme song
Meanwhile, Wilde and Solem can only marvel at what the song has meant to their careers. The Rembrandts scored a hit once before, in 1991 with “Just the Way It Is, Baby.” That song took six months to break into the top 40. “I’ll Be There for You” entered the airplay charts at No. 22 the day it was released.
“We don’t want to hang our hats on the theme front a TV show,” said Solem, who lives in Minneapolis. “We’ve been working too long at our craft for that.”
Both musicians were members of the local pop band Great Buildings in the early ’80s.
Friends theme song and opening credits
Friends cast – the stars of the show
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green
Courteney Cox as Monica Geller
Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani
Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing
David Schwimmer as Ross Geller