Nope, Not A 1-Hit Wonder: The Rembrandts.

It’s a song that at least a few of us have heard, a theme song to a TV show that at least a few of us have watched. It was kinda big, yet the group that recorded it had no other hits.

Well, not quite.

Yes, “I’ll Be There For You” was ubiquitous in the mid to late 90s. From 1995 until around the turn of the decade (possibly even longer) you couldn’t turn on your radio without hearing it.

The artists who recorded it were the duo of Phil Solem and Danny Wilde, known as The Rembrandts.

Solem and Wilde had been knocking around the business for many years before forming The Rembrandts in 1989. Wilde was a member of 70s band The Quick and had released several minor albums on his own. He met up with solem when they were members of the short lived power pop group Great Buildings.

In 1989, they teamed up as The Rembrandts and recorded an album that was released through Atco records in September 1990. Early in 1991, the single “Just The Way It Is, Baby” was released and became pretty popular on the radio, making it all the way to 14 on the charts.

But the follow-up single “Someone” stalled at 78 on the charts.

In 1992, they released a follow-up album called “Untitled” (borrowing loosely a trick from Led Zeppelin). This album contained the minor hit “Johnny Have You Seen Her”.

It made it to 54 and I recall hearing it a couple times on the radio.

Also on the Untitled album was “Rollin Down The Hill” which was featured in Dumb And Dumber.

But the next major song by The Rembrandts would not be featured in a movie. But as the theme for a TV show.

Friends_titles

In 1995, one could not turn on a radio without hearing those familiar jangling chords or that catchy chorus.

Now it’s a good thing that titles aren’t copyrighted because there’d been an earlier song called “I’ll Be There For You” by those 80s titans Bon Jovi.

But the Rembrandts totally unrelated song became a 90s staple.

According to Wikipedia:

The original theme, which is under one minute long, was later re-recorded as a three-minute pop song. After Nashville program director Charlie Quinn, along with radio announcer and music director Tom Peace looped the original short version into a full-length track and broadcast it on radio station WYHY, it became so popular that they had to re-record it. “Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it,”

The song was getting radio play before it got released as a single so many people had already bought the full album or the Friends soundtrack before the single was released. Hence the reason why it only made it to 17 on the charts.

However, it would also be the last Rembrandts song to make it to the charts. They’ve soldiered on and released a couple more albums as well as a greatest hits which includes the songs noted above.

So in addition to their immortal TV theme song, The Rembrandts also had another fairly large hit and a couple minor ones and they’ve continued to put out decent jangle pop over the years. But the fact that they had one song that tapped into the zeitgeist at that particular moment in time meant that following it up with something equally successful was going to be close to impossible. That and the fact that the musical climate of that era wasn’t as accommodating to the Rembrandts style. It was at a point when many people wanted edgier stuff and there were other groups that were doing the same style but getting more recognition (The Gin Blossoms for instance). Hence, the reason for their erroneous reputation as one-hit wonders.

But they’re still around, still making music when the rain starts to fall like they’ve been there before.

Posted on July 26, 2014, in Music, Nope, Not a 1-Hit Wonder and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. It feels like the 90s here this week. First Lisa Loeb and now the Rembrandts! Good times. I’m getting all kinds of nostalgic.

    If I remember correctly, the Rembrandts hated this song. And they really hated the music video which was basically an excuse for the cast of Friends to mug for the camera while they stood around watching them.

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    • I remember hearing that too. I have very little tolerance for a band whining about a song they wrote and sang that became a huge hit and made them loads of money.

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      • Yeah, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for them just because success didn’t come in the specific fashion they wanted it to.

        Although I don’t believe they actually wrote I’ll Be There For You. According to the Pop Up Video segment I watched, it was written by the guy on the piano who isn’t actually part of the group.

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        • jeffthewildman

          It was originally written by other people. Supposedly they did some work on it as well.

          Here’s the full writing credit:

          David Crane, Marta Kauffman, Michael Skloff, Allee Willis, Phil Sōlem, Danny Wilde

          And this wasn’t their only success. But it was the one that stood out. Why it didn’t translate into continuing success is likely a reason of timing. I’ll Be There For You tapped into the cultural zeitgeist at exactly the right moment. But for the most part, the Rembrandts good time approach was out of step in the more cynical mid-late 90s.If they had came along a decade earlier, they likely would have ended up on Top 40 radio alongside the likes of Hall and Oates.

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  2. Heh, nice closing sentence :) This song was particularly striking to me during the Friends run, not just because i loved the show and the song. It was more than 30something still being able to jump around the living room and imagine being 20something. Mid to late 90s were when I really started to feel acutely distanced from the musical trends of the time. Melody had appeared to have fallen out of favor with the newer generation. Lyrics were incomprehensible or depressing.
    Yet here was a hit song with zany lyrics that you could sing in your car. The fact that it was crafted for a TV show by a duo who were experienced recording artists with lasting careers, as writers, session musicians and producers, does nothing to detract from the enjoyable, ebullient quality of this 90s anthem.

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    • I’ll Be There For You is interesting because it represents the end of an era in popular music. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s and even into the 90’s, numerous tv theme songs became top 10 (even #1) hits: Welcome Back Kotter, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Cops, Greatest American Hero and Happy Days are just a few tv shows that had hit songs from their theme song. I’ll Be There For You is really the last tv show theme song that I can even think of to become a radio hit, primarily because tv shows don’t have lengthy opening titles anymore, nowadays instead of a 30 second to 1 minute opening you get a 5 second title card with the show title, so no more catchy theme songs anymore to possibly become hits. So this Rembrandt’s song really was the end of an era, the last big tv theme show hit song.

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      • I miss TV theme songs. Also I am old.

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        • I think a recurring series of articles on tv show theme songs might be a fun topic to explore, Jeff. There’s certainly a good amount of them that became major radio hits during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, enough to sustain a potential series for awhile. More than a few of them have interesting stories behind them.

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  3. well the names have all changed since you hung around…

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  4. A-Ha might make for a great Not A One Hit Wonder write-up. Take On Me was a big #1 hit for them, which also had a great art-driven music video. It’s still one of my favorite music videos. They even had one further Top 20 hit before fading away, making sure 30 years later they would qualify for Not A One Hit Wonder status.

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    • jeffthewildman

      I’ve thought about doing one on A-Ha. Maybe I’ll make them the next one.

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      • better really do your homework, because they’re on my list too.

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        • We should probably work out some kind of communication about who is doing what so no one steps on anyone’s toes. I’d suggest that if you are writing an entry in a series that someone else “owns”, it’s probably a good idea to clear an idea with that person before posting just to be sure.

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        • jeffthewildman

          In that case I’ll leave em for you.

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          • I’ll be looking forward to the potential A-Ha article with great interest! By the way, might I make a suggestion? Family Guy had an amusing parody of the iconic Take On Me music video, you could always pull that off Youtube and add it to the article for a good chuckle.

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  5. I’ve missed the Not A One Hit Wonder column, it’s been awhile since the last one. Any word on when we might see the next one? I hope A-Ha is one of the next artists to get a write up. Hint Hint! ;)

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