By Matt Clizbe
This week marked the ten-year anniversary to the finale of the hit NBC sit com, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. For this edition of #ThrowbackThursday, we chose to get nostalgic and remember the occasion by honoring the show’s most memorable music component. No, it’s not the several off beat but still comically loveable songs by Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe Buffay. Of course, we’re talking about the infectious pop hit theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.”
Whether it is heard today through syndication around the world, or it was being played every Thursday night in NBC primetime before that, the sound of “I’ll be there For You” has always served as a musical cue, signaling the fun that Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey were about to take you through. For the song’s creators, Pop/Rock duo The Rembrants, the hit sit com was a vehicle that took their song to both the top of the charts, and an unexpected pop culture immortality. This is particularly interesting because at least at first, it wasn’t the show’s choice for a theme song.
The duo discussed making the song for F.R.I.E.N.D.S in a Dateline farewell special that aired the night before the show’s finale in 2004. In the interview the band explains that they were shown the pilot to “Friends Like Us”, which was one of the many working titles of the show. In their recollection they go on to say that at the time the pilot’s theme song slot was filled by R.E.M.’s hit “It’s The End Of The World.” This may have been true, however, they may have also mixed up R.E.M. songs while on the spot. I say this because a brief search out of curiosity actually lead to a You Tube clip of what appears to be the original “Friends Like Us” opener. It features R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People.” Who knows? Maybe the producers just love R.E.M. that much.
Either way, The Rembrants agreed to contribute their song, and from then on, it was a Friends affair. “I’ll Be There For You” was co-written by The Rembrants with F.R.I.E.N.D.S producers/creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman, Kauffman’s husband, composer Michael Skloff, and songwriter Allee Willis. Its then made its faitful debut on September 22nd 1994 as part of episode 1, and was seen by nearly 22 million people.
The show’s support of the song didn’t stop there. When Eastwest Records released “I’ll Be There For You” as a single 9 months later, the casts of then relatively fresh faces were there for them. The ensemble joined The Rembrants to perform in the song’s music video. This seemed to only reinforce that stardom of everything F.R.I.E.N.D.S. After the show was considered almost an instant hit on network TV, the F.R.I.E.N.D.S affect bled over to its theme song, and for at least a short time, the Rembrants were also a hit. Following its official release in May of 1995, “I’ll Be There For You” toped Billboard’s Top 40 Mainstream and Hot AC Charts, and stayed at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 8 weeks.
Unlike the show, which lasted until May 6, 2004, excitement surrounding The Rembrants faded, and they broke up shortly after “I’ll Be There For You”’s album LP was released. Blender Magazine and AOL Radio later went on to count the song on their similarly themed lists of worst songs ever.
I personally think such judgment calls are pretty harsh, and neglect to recognize the unique phenomenon that it was a part of. “I’ll Be There For You” was there for F.R.I.E.N.D.S as a crucial last ingredient to its launch that very well could have made all the difference in gaining the interest of fans. Don’t believe me? Check out “Friends Like Us” clip below and you’ll see that it’s just not the same.
What is the same is the good feeling I get whenever I hear “I’ll Be There For You” when I’m flipping through the channels at least once a day. Maybe twice, depending on the syndicated market. Since I’m sure I’m not alone, please join me in celebrating “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrants on this week’s #ThrowbackThursday. Enjoy!
“I’ll Be There For You”