The best Thanksgiving celebrations are the ones with red carpets, classy people you don’t know, and life-sized pictures of Jennifer Aniston all over the place. Everyone who’s anyone knows about the iconic TV show “Friends,” and that its recent 25th anniversary was recognized all around the nation. In our city, AT&T and Warner Bros. teamed up to hold a private Friendsgiving event at the Field Museum to honor the show, award local organizations, and share the spotlight with the singers of the “Friends” theme song.
The night went a little something like this. After taking advantage of some bomb photo ops, we ate a huge Thanksgiving dinner at these super long tables. The host, Sid, and other musicians kept us entertained all night long. Members of Guitars Over Guns gave us some heat with their performance. The host and the crowd interacted by rapping “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song too!
“The most unique part of this event was the plethora of people brought together by celebrating 25 years of ‘Friends’ being broadcasted all around the world,” said AT&T flagship store performer, Dope Bash. “I made so many new friends that night and I am grateful! We also learned about the different types of things AT&T is doing to support our Chicago community.”
The coolest part of the night was when we got the chance to interview Danny Wilde and Phil Solem of The Rembrandts. This pop duo wrote and sang the “Friends” theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.” Check out what they had to say!
TrueStar.Life: It’s been 25 years. What was it like the first time you two wrote the song?
The Rembrandts: It was a whirlwind. The producer of the show, Kevin Bright, was already a fan of our music. We were on our third album at that time. He had a show and asked if The Rembrandts would be interested in doing a song. It happened so fast. We got together with a co-writer on a Thursday, cut it on a Saturday or Sunday, and it aired the following Thursday.
TSL: What is it like being a part of something so timeless?
TR: That’s what we’ve always gone for. Our sound doesn’t follow musical trends. We are a couple of guys with guitars, vocals are a big part of it, melodies are important to us, throw in the bass and drums and you’ve got a rock band. The song was sort of simple, in a way, kind of like who we are. It has transcended to the newer generation.
TSL: What is it like still performing this song in 2019?
TR: It’s amazing and of course when you get a hit, everyone says, “You’re going to be playing this for the rest of your life.” You hope for that, but you think you’re going to get sick of it. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten sick of it. We also got to triple the length of this song to make it a legit radio piece. The original was only 42 seconds long.
TSL: How are you enjoying being a part of Friendsgiving?
TR: It’s fantastic and an honor! Who gets to play in a museum like this? Just to be a part of the iconic-ness of the “Friends” show, we’ve been doing these events for months and there are like, lines around the block of young people waiting to see us play. They had to be about a year old when the show came out.
TSL: In the beginning, was there a point when people didn’t believe the song would catch on like it did?
TR: It just really happened so fast. The theme song was the last part to be added to the show. There was a deadline because it was literally airing the next week. We were also releasing a record at the same time. Then all of a sudden, everything just blew up. The show got huge ratings. That’s when the record company wanted us to release a long version of the single. We ended up stripping that onto our finished album as a bonus track. One hundred thousand units were already shipped out. We had to get them back and put stickers on them saying that “I’ll Be There For You” was included.
TSL: Were you two the only people asked to do the theme song? Was there any competition?
TR: The interesting thing was that the temp track for “Friends” was R.E.M.’s [sings] “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” All the producers knew was that they wanted something of that tempo and that jangly guitar vibe. So, Kevin Bright says, “Ah! The Rembrandts would be perfect for that.” They didn’t want the darkness of the R.E.M. song. They wanted something upbeat. A great lyricist name Allee Willis got together with the show’s music director, Michael Skloff, and they got the first start of the song going. They brought it to us and we just hammered it from there. Back then, we waited for faxes to come in.
TSL: Thank you for making one of the greatest theme songs in television history.
TR: Well thank you!
Afterwards, I caught up with the Friendsgiving host, Sid Burgos. “I started watching Friends in the 90’s when I was in high school. Now, as I am celebrating 25 years as the official Friendsgiving host, the nostalgia for me is truly overwhelming. Having Friendsgiving here at the Field Museum gives fans the feeling of being a part of the storyline. With so many of the show’s plot lines taking place surrounding the museum where Ross worked, fans can visualize their favorite moments within these halls. It’s an attention to detail that AT&T and Warner Bros. knocked out of the park.”
Let’s not forget the big announcement that AT&T and Warner Bros. pledged a $12,500 donation to True Star Foundation! You can give to True Star too. Just click here and DONATE TO ELEVATE! Chicago’s youth.
By Marilyn Koonce, Northern Illinois University Alumna