Friends' Massive Popularity Once Caused The Theme Song's Band To Quit. The Singer Revealed Why Things Got Stressful

Friends opening credits.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It’s been nearly 30 years since Friends made its debut on NBC, and the show seems as popular today as ever. Fans with an HBO Max subscription can watch any of its 236 episodes at will, and for those who still have cable, the sitcom plays nearly constantly in syndication. That means that even viewers who weren’t around to enjoy the sitcom back in the ‘90s have enough familiarity with the theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” to clap, clap, clap, clap right along. One might think that’s a good thing for The Rembrandts, but according to its singer, it wasn’t always that way.

It’s true that when people think of The Rembrandts, they likely associate them first and foremost with the Friends theme song, rather than any of their other work as a Los Angeles alt-rock duo. Danny Wilde told The Guardian that when they first wrote the 43-second theme, they didn’t want anyone to know they’d “sold out.” When Friends turned out to be a hit, however, he and Phil Solem were asked to cut a full version of the song, which changed everything. Wilde said: 

Once people realised it was us, it killed our cool vibe. We went from doing cool clubs to matinee shows where parents would bring their kids. The song became an albatross round our necks and broke up the band for a few years. My bandmate Phil Solem had pretty much had it, so we took a two-year vacation from each other. But we got back together and we’re still making albums and playing gigs, so it’s all good.

It sounds like the lyrics they wrote — “So no one told you life was gonna be this way…” — turned out to be pretty meta. I can only imagine how disheartening it would be for The Rembrandts to go from being a cool alternative rock band practically overnight to the Friends theme song guys, especially considering they’d wanted to go uncredited for the song in the first place. 

Apparently it caused so much tension that the band split up for a couple years. Now, however, they’ve seemingly embraced their fate, and as much as they might have thought the job was a joke, they certainly are not broke. Danny Wilde said those royalties checks are still rolling in:

Friends is on 24 hours a day somewhere. Every time it gets played, there’s a little ‘ker-ching!’. It’s only a nickel or whatever, but they add up. It put my kids through college and got me a beautiful home. I’m not rich but I’m comfortable. We were snobby about it early on and it messed with our heads. But what a gift it’s been. I might be living on the streets if it wasn’t for that song.

Like it or not (and Jennifer Aniston has shared her honest opinion), The Rembrandts’ hit — and therefore the band itself — will always be synonymous with Friends. Courteney Cox even quoted the theme song when receiving her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

If you want to take a break from all of those Friends reruns, you can currently see Courteney Cox in Scream VI, which killed at the box office on its opening weekend. Jennifer Aniston has a couple of upcoming projects herself, with The Morning Show set to return to Apple TV+ for Season 3 (so keep an eye on the 2023 TV schedule for that premiere date) and Murder Mystery 2 coming to Netflix on March 31. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.