‘Friends’ Theme Song Composers Added the Hand Claps to ‘I’ll Be There for You’ By Mistake, But the End Result Was ‘Magical’
“I’ll Be There for You” was recorded by The Rembrandts, an American duo who became famous after lending their musical talents to what would become one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
The lyrics perfectly capture the essence of the show — a group of 20-somethings who are there for each other through the triumphs and challenges of life. But it turns out one of the most memorable moments of the song, the hand clapping, happened quite by accident.
The original version of ‘I’ll Be There for You’ used drums
“I’ll be there for you/when the rain starts to fall. I’ll be there for you/like I’ve been there before.”
Though the words of the Friends theme song aren’t revolutionary, they are universal, which is why some critics call it one of the best TV show openers ever made — or at least, the easiest to get stuck in your head. Part of this comes from the quick hand claps that fans usually perform along with the song.
In the original version, those four beats had a drum fill, Variety reported. But when producers were creating the TV version of the intro, they were missing that piece. A recording engineer quickly improvised with handclaps. The audience loved it and clapped right along.
The song composer was amazed by how popular the clapping became
The person behind the music was also the ex-husband of Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman. He still marvels at the cultural impact of the song and how the clapping became such an important part of that legacy.
“What seems like something so insignificant became a signature of the song,” composer Michael Skloff told Variety of the clapping.
“As an artist, as a composer, performer, you have no idea what kind of connection you’re making to people. All you can do is the best you can do and make the best creative decisions and hope that it’s good and that it holds up. And then when something like that happens, it’s like magic. It’s like proof of a higher power or something.”
The Rembrandts have a difficult relationship with the hit song
“I’ll Be There for You” turned The Rembrandts, an alternative duo with a modest following, into an overnight sensation. That meteoric rise to fame led to their downfall.
Former Rembrandts member Danny Wilde recalls how the song’s popularity alienated their old fans and confused their new ones. The duo was forced to record a longer version of the song that could be played on the radio. And it didn’t fit the rest of their vibe.
“We felt that the song went against the more serious, alternative vibe of the album [LP]. It sounded like nothing else we had done. Mind you, we stopped complaining when we saw the sales figures,” Wilde told The Independent.
Eventually, the song contributed to the band’s breakup.
“You could say [“I’ll Be There”] became something of a curse, yes. We were tired of it being the only thing we were known for, and we were tired of being on the road… The whole thing became a grind. There was no outright animosity between us, but we needed a break from each other.”
Despite all the negativity, the song remains one of the best-known TV theme songs ever made.