Old School Americana & Nostalgia


How the ‘Friends’ Song Became the Most Iconic TV Theme of the 90s

How the ‘Friends’ Song Became the Most Iconic TV Theme of the 90s

When you think “iconic TV show theme songs,” what comes to mind? The Golden Girls? Cheers? Maybe something more modern, like Game of Thrones? Regardless of your personal favorites, it’s tough to argue that “I’ll Be There for You” isn’t in the conversation. In fact, the Friends theme is probably in contention for the most iconic TV theme of all time.

The catchy guitar riff, the claps, the relatable lyrics… “I’ll Be There for You” is the epitome of the “good vibes” 90s theme song, perfectly encapsulating the energy of the beloved sitcom.”

The most interesting part about the Friends theme, though? It was such a hit that it changed the course of TV history. In the mid-90s, producers were considering eliminating main title sequences from TV – which would, of course, eliminate theme songs as well.

Shows like Seinfeld skipped the opener altogether and simply played credits over the start of each episode. The idea was that a lengthy opening theme gave viewers an opportunity to flip through the channels rather than jumping straight into the action.

With the explosion of Friends and its catchy theme, however, network executives began to rethink their decision.

“It’s a perfectly likable song that’s reminiscent of the Beatles and the Monkees, which is from a time in our history that was idealistic and fun, that whole ‘our generation’ kind of thing, and just brings back good feelings. And it’s connected with a wildly popular show,” composer Michael Skloff explained. “People like the song on its own, but they also say, ‘Oh, God, I love that show.’”

The Story Behind the Legendary ‘Friends’ Theme

So no one told you life was gonna be this way… If you didn’t continue the lyrics in your head just now, you at least heard the claps that come after. The Friends theme is rapidly approaching 30 years old but remains an earworm to this day.

In a 2021 interview with Variety, The Rembrandts’ band member Phil Solem reflected on creating the smash hit theme. “They wanted an upbeat tempo and used R.E.M. – I think it was ‘It’s the End of the World’ – to vibe off, then we replaced it with our own sound,” he explained.

Before they knew it, Friends was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 90s (and, eventually, of all time). So popular that radio stations began playing the 42-second song on loop due to constant listener requests. And though the lyrics and melody play a large role in the song’s success, those iconic claps can’t be overlooked – and Rembrandts’ bandmate Phil Solem agrees!

“We thought we were all done, and then, we went in to hear the final mix and the clapping was in there,” Solem recalled, per American Songwriter. “I was like, ‘Who thought of that? That’s the best part! Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane wanted to be part of the record so they wanted to try the clapping part. Oh my God. All they had to do was go (clap, clap, clap, clap). And it was like, ‘Take 25!’”