How the ‘Friends’ Theme Song Helped The Monkees to Reunite
The Monkees and Friends are two of the defining TV shows of their respective eras, but you wouldn’t associate one with the other. However, there is definitely a similarity between one element of Friends and The Monkees’ work. In addition, Friends had a significant influence on The Monkees’ reunion.
The connection between the Prefab Four and ‘Friends’
One of the most famous aspects of Friends is its theme song — “I’ll Be there for You” by The Rembrandts. It certainly has some musical similarities to the sunny pop-rock the Prefab Four released during their peak. In fact, The Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde even referred to the song as a “Monkees-style jingle.” The use of a Prefab Four-esque song in Friends could be understood as one of the many examples of 1960s nostalgia in 1990s pop culture.
Wilde wasn’t the only musician to notice the similarity. Prefab Four member Peter Tork told Rolling Stone his bandmate, Mike Nesmith, found “I’ll Be There for You” reminiscent of a certain 1960s album.
How ‘Friends’ brought The Monkees back together
“[Nesmith] had the idea the theme song to Friends sounded exactly like [the Prefab Four’s] Headquarters,” Tork recalled. “[Nesmith] just caught a charge and wanted to see it through, so he asked me and Micky to come jam with him. It was the first time we’d played together like that since 1969.” The result was a time warp of sorts.
“I played bass,” Tork said. “Micky was on drums and Michael was on guitar. We sounded just the same. It was really amazing.”
Afterward, the other members of the band brought in Davy Jones to work with them. The end result was The Monkees’ 1996 reunion album Justus. Justus was the band’s first album since Pool It! from 1987. Justus is notable within the band’s discography as only The Monkees worked on it except for a studio engineer. So how did the public react to a new direction from The Monkees?
How the public reacted to ‘Justus’
Justus did not chart at all on the Billboard 200. This is shocking considering The Monkees’ had several No. 1 hit albums in the 1960s, such as their self-titled album and Headquarters. Perhaps the album failed commercially because it’s so distinct from the band’s 1960s output.
However, Justus was important because it showed the Prefab Four were perfectly capable of making music without the help of outside songwriters. Considering the band garnered a bad reputation in the 1960s because all their hits were written by others, this was a huge deal.
In addition, Justus was important simply because it was the last new Prefab Four album until 2016. For a full 20 years, it looked like Justus might be The Prefab Four’s swansong, so the album seemed especially important during that time. It’s certainly amazing to think The Monkees created an entire album all because Nesmith had a certain opinion of the Friends theme song.