Although the duo of singer/songwriters Phil Solem and Danny Wilde formed the Rembrandts in the early 1990s, it wasn’t their albums that earned the duo global fame. Instead, it was “I’ll Be There for You,” a 42-second theme song for the television sitcom Friends that was recorded in one day. After the phenomenal response to the theme song, the Rembrandts recorded a longer version for their album L.P., released in 1995. The single’s success created tension for Solem and Wilde, whose team split up in 1997, then reunited in 2000 for the release of Lost Together.
Solem, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Wilde, a native of Southern California, started playing together in the late 1970s in a band called Great Buildings. The group released Apart from the Crowd in 1981. Even though they released an album, Great Buildings never really took off. “The band thing started wearing on us, so I moved back to Minneapolis, but we kept in touch,”. Solem said in the band’s website biography. “We both kept active in the music industry.”
After splitting from Great Buildings, Wilde embarked on a solo career and released The Boyfriend, to which Solem contributed guitar and vocals, followed by Any Man’s Hunger in 1983 and Danny Wilde in 1989. The
Members include Phil Solem, vocals, songwriting; Danny Wilde, vocals, songwriting.
Group formed in Southern California, 1990; signed recording contract with Atco Records, released The Rembrandts, 1990; released Untitled, 1992; released L.P. on EastWest/Elektra Records, 1995; disbanded, 1997; reunited, 2000; signed with J-Bird Records, released Lost Together, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —J-Bird Records, 5 River Rd., Suite 301, Wilton, CT 06897. Website —The Rembrandts Official Website: http://www.therembrandts.com.
following year, Solem and Wilde reunited in Southern California. They started by recording a few tracks in Wilde’s garage, a collection which quickly grew to 13 songs. They created a demo tape with the material and signed a record contract with Atco Records.
Atco released those 13 demo songs for the duo’s self-titled debut. The Rembrandts included the top 20 single “Just the Way It Is, Baby.” From the beginning, the duo aimed to reach pop stardom. “I feel that I’m a pop craftsman, and I definitely want to bowl people over with a killer hook, because that’s what works for me,” Wilde told Steve Knopper in Billboard. “It’s not like I’m a poet, and I try to create these deep heavy messages. I love to write a great pop song.”
In 1992, the Rembrandts released their second album Untitled, which included the single “Johnny Have You Seen Her.” Then, before the release of their next album, the producers of an upcoming television show called Friends contacted Solem and Wilde. The producers asked if they would record the theme song for the sitcom, and the Rembrandts agreed. “We went into the studio, and cut a 42-second version of the theme song…. It was so fast,” Wilde told Chris Morris in Bill-board. “We cut it on a Saturday; we worked in a 20-hour session. We cut it and mixed it in the same session, because it had to be finished on Monday so that they could go online with it, because the show was airing that Thursday. Then, we just forgot about it until radio stations started making loops of it.”
The Rembrandts had no idea how quickly Friends and its theme song, “I’ll Be There for You,” would take off. As Wilde noted, radio station deejays had created a longer version of the theme by recording it from the television and rerecording it end-to-end, over and over again. This looped version became one of the most requested songs on the radio. This all happened just as the Rembrandts were preparing to release their third album.
When their record company, which had been taken over by EastWest/Elektra Records, found out about the popularity of the looped theme, the executives insisted Solem and Wilde return to the studio to record a full-length version of the song. Solem and Wilde recorded the single a week before they were originally supposed to release their album, so the song’s title didn’t even appear on the track listing of the CD.
With the recording finally completed, the Rembrandts released L.P. in 1995. Besides “I’ll Be There for You,” it included the single “Comin’ Home.” Don Smith, whom the Rembrandts had recruited to help them record a more raw sound compared to their previous releases, produced L.P. “By this time, we had a pretty rockin’ band, and we sounded really good live,” Wilde said in the band’s website biography. “We wanted Don to help capture that sound.”
Buoyed by the success of “I’ll Be There for You,” L. P. reached platinum status and the Rembrandts toured for more than a year. At the end of the tour, Solem and Wilde decided to split, and Solem moved back to Minnesota in 1997. The success of “I’ll Be There for You” had taken the Rembrandts in a different direction than they had hoped for. “It launched our career to hyperweirdness,” Solem said of the single in Newsweek. “I didn’t feel like it had anything to do with what we considered art.”
In addition, several critics disregarded their previous work, which created another set of problems for the duo. As Janet Bragen wrote on the Nightowl website, “the Rembrandts were unfairly dubbed ‘one-hit wonders’ by critics and the record buying public. Suddenly, the hits prior to ‘I’ll Be There for You’ were discarded, as were the Rembrandts themselves.”
Following the split, Wilde continued to perform under the name Danny Wilde & the Rembrandts. He released Spin This, produced by Van Dyke Parks, in 1998 with contributions from several guest musicians. At the time, Solem had told Wilde he wasn’t yet ready to resurrect the Rembrandts after all the hype around Friends. Both members made decisions at the time that they later questioned. “Danny has to live with releasing what was essentially a solo album as the Rembrandts,” Solem told Chris Riemenschneider in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I have to live with not moving forward when we probably should have, and not being as diplomatic about [the Friends’ situation] as I could have been.”
In the late 1990s Wilde continued to write and record songs that he released over the Internet, and Solem formed a new band called Thrush, which recorded a self-titled album, also released on the Internet. In 2000 Solem and Wilde got back together to write and record a new album.
The following year they signed a contract with J-Bird Records and released Lost Together on October 2, 2001. The album, which includes the single “Too Late,” was produced by John Fields, who says the Rembrandts create better music when they are together. “Danny and Phil have a brilliant dichotomy brewing between them,” Fields told Riemenschneider. “They need to be and write with each other to make the most potent music. Some of their disagreements about the songs became some of the coolest parts on the record.”
The Rembrandts, Atco, 1990.
Untitled, Atco, 1992.
L.P., EastWest/Elektra, 1995.
Lost Together, J-Bird, 2001.
Billboard, June 17, 1995; March 28, 1998.
Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia), July 24, 1995.
Entertainment Weekly, August 18, 1995.
Newsweek, October 16, 2000.
People, May 11, 1998.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), October 28, 2001.
“Rembrandts: Lost Together —Biography,” J-Bird Records, http://www.jbirdrecords.com/artist.html?sku=6174680362-2 (February 23, 2002).
Rembrandts Official Website, http://www.therembrandts.com (February 23, 2002).
“Solem & Wilde: The Rembrandts Bio—Long Bio,” http://www.rembrandts.f2s.com/bio2.htm (February 23, 2002).
“The Rembrandts Biography,” RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio.asp?oid=1152&cf=1152 (February 23, 2002).
“The Rembrandts: Lost Together,” Nightowl, http://www.thenightowl.com/reviews/rembrandts.htm (February 23, 2002).
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