The Rembrandts - "I'll be there for you"

The song titled “I'll be there for you”, performed by The Rembrandts, is, of course, the famous theme song to the hit American sitcom Friends which began airing in 1994. Shortly after completing work and releasing their third album “L.P.”, came this then little-known TV show on the NBC-TV network. Danny Wilde (one half of The Rembrandts) : "Kevin Bright [Friends executive producer] was a Rembrandts fan and didn't want a generic house band to record the theme for the show. He called our management and asked us if we'd be interested. So we watched the tape and thought it was very good for its genre and it had all the right people working on it. We thought it would be fun to do, no-one would even know it was us, and during the first season of the show, we weren't even listed on the credits as performers."

Unusually for a duo that always wrote its own stuff, the Rembrandts weren't even listed as writers on the song, either. Wilde : "To this day, we only get performance royalties, not publishing splits for the TV version of the song. It wasn't actually a song Phil [Solem, the other half of the band] and I even wrote. We had credit on it, but Michael Skloff, musical director for the show, came up with the tune and Allee Willis [plus others such as show creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane] came up with the lyrics. All they had was a 30-second verse and a chorus, so we tweaked the lyrics a little bit, and Phil came up with the signature riff at the start of the song".

It wasn't long before the catchy opening ditty for the show was generating a huge buzz at radio. Stations were inundated with calls after they began playing the 30-second clip of the song. One Nashville DJ in particular even looped the 30 second clip into a 3 minute song. Pressure grew for a full-length version of the song to be cut. Solem : “Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it".

Wilde and Solem sensed that the song would surely overshadow an album they had taken two years to write and record. But despite their protestations, EastWest label head Sylvia Rhone ordered the duo to record a full-length version of the song or face the axe. So to avoid a scenario where the Rembrandts' future was jeopardized, Wilde and Solem agreed. In the studio they wrote more lyrics, added a bridge and completed the song. Wilde : "That's when we became known as 'the band who sang the Friends theme'".

For most bands, a number one hit for 11 consecutive weeks and massive commercial exposure is everything they dream of. It was certainly manna from heaven for the record label. Recognizing the exploitative potential of the situation, EastWest never released "I'll be there for you" as a single. Instead, they tagged the song onto a re-released edition of “L.P.” and sat back as sales of the album far surpassed anything else the Rembrandts had achieved thus far.

Without the song, The Rembrandts may not have sold as many albums. But the song's success and two million-plus sales of the repackaged album sat uncomfortably with them. Wilde : "I guess we sold out, maybe we did. But everyone does it now. It's more acceptable in today's hit-orientated industry. It was hard to swallow at the time, as the alternative pop vibe we spent six years developing took a back seat. I guess it was our old school attitude, but we weren't proud of the song. It wasn't what we wanted to be remembered for”. An unrepresentative legacy [and the loss of hardcore original fans] wasn't the only result of the song's impact : it broke up the band in 1997, as the strain of such massive exposure proved too great.

Between 1997 and 2000 though, enough years passed for Wilde and Solem to regain a sense of perspective on old events and to start the process of making new music together again. After hooking up via the producer John Fields, a mutual friend of the duo, writing started almost immediately for a new album that was called “Lost Together”.

Available (unfortunately ?) on the album « LP »